So, a year ago I decided to become more active within the local YA community, and really it started for me by attending the 2017 YA Showcase hosted by the Centre for Youth Literature. At this event, a host of publishers and some authors share some of these most exciting new releases for 2018 and get the crowd pumped with the briefest of pitches and a lot of cover reveals.
Overall, as a reader with an invested interest in the ‘behind the scenes’, it’s a pretty great event, this year it felt really lovely to just go and chill out and catch up with many of the YA faces I’ve come to know and befriend over the last twelve months. It was pretty great, and the books (*bites lip* ughummff) I’ll get to those in a sec.
Right off the bat though, I do want to address (as I did with much more hesitancy last year, being a newbie to the scene and all, you can basically copy and paste what I wrote last year and put it here as it still applies) that apart from on our bookshelves themselves, it is these sorts of literary events/festivals that highlight just how far Australia’s (and the wider) publishing sector has to come in terms of accessibility, inclusivity and making our literature a fairer and truer reflection of our society.
This year, there was AN ASTOUNDING lack of disability representation in particular (and by this, I mean stories written by disabled authors and works featuring disabled characters, not only those stories that deal with disability issues/themes) within the showcase. The same goes for Indigenous and queer representation (outside of the romance category, I WANT MORE QUEER BOOKS THAT AREN’T ROMANCE FFS).
I don’t believe a single book with a disabled character or a disabled author was mentioned (I do want to acknowledge that, with judging the lack of representation of disabled authors, not all disabilities are readily visible, and even then authors and their publishers don’t owe us anything in terms of disclosing personal disability or a lack thereof) and I think this needs deeper reflection and interrogation on part of the Aussie publishers and insiders taking part in the event, and not only that but us attendees, us readers and writers.
We need to make it known that such exclusion in our literary discussion and, at times, outright silence is not acceptable. We can all do better, and should be doing better.
A fabulous article about this thread of thought can be read here, by Ambelin Kwaymullina who was one of the fab authors whose upcoming work was features last night (much to the fanning-out of the showcase crowd.) It comes from the perspective of an Indigenous author and relates to issues of access and is a two-parter so give both a read! This isn’t to say that the issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander YA authors and stories in YA can be cut and pasted with disabled authors but there is an intersection of thought and barriers that are well examined by the article and, I think, can apply.
If you know of any books with disability rep or books by disabled authors coming out in 2018 (bonus if they’re Aussie) please, let me know, I’d love to hear about them and spread the word!
Speaking of spreading the love, the showcase itself paraded out a whole array of kick arse books, many of which I’m personally excited for.
The following will be a roundup of the works that caught my eye on the night and some info about them. All entirely subjective, opinions are my own ya-da, ya-da. With a front row seat, I live-tweeted the event which you can peruse here. Otherwise, here’s what hooked me, and here’s where my money will probs be going in 2018.
BETWEEN US – Claire Atkins | January 2018
Anahita is passionate, curious and determined. She is also an Iranian asylum seeker who is only allowed out of detention to attend school. On weekdays, during school hours, she can be a ‘regular Australian girl’.
Jono needs the distraction of an infatuation. In the past year his mum has walked out, he’s been dumped and his sister has moved away. Lost and depressed, Jono feels as if he’s been left behind with his Vietnamese single father, Kenny.
Kenny is struggling to work out the rules in his new job; he recently started work as a guard at the Wickham Point Detention Centre. He tells Anahita to look out for Jono at school, but quickly comes to regret this, spiraling into suspicion and mistrust. Who is this girl, really? What is her story? Is she a genuine refugee or a queue jumper? As Jono and Anahita grow closer, Kenny starts snooping behind the scenes …
NOBODY REAL – Steven Camden | Feb 2018
New YA novel from renowned spoken word poet Steven Camden, with a dash of Inception and Jennifer Niven, this is the story of a teen girl and her imaginary friend.
CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE – Tomi Adeyemi | March 2018
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.
TIN HEART – Shivaun Plozza | March 2018
When Marlowe gets a heart transplant and a second chance at life, all she wants is to thank her donor’s family. Maybe then she can move on. Maybe then she’ll discover who she is if she’s no longer The Dying Girl.
But with a little brother who dresses like every day is Halloween, a vegan warrior for a mother and an all-out war with the hot butcher’s apprentice next door, Marlowe’s life is already pretty complicated. And her second chance is about to take an unexpected turn…
TRULY WILDLY DEEPLY- Jenny McLauchlan | April 2018
Annie is starting college. She can't wait. No more school, no more uniform, and no one telling her what to do. It's the start of a new adventure and Annie's not going to let anyone or anything get in the way of that. Freedom matters to Annie. She has cerebral palsy and she's had to fight hard to get the world to see her for who she truly is.
Then she meets Fab. He's six foot two, Polish and a passionate believer in…well, just about everything, but most of all Annie and good old fashioned romance. The moment Fab sees Annie, he's wildly drawn to her and declares she must be his girl. Annie's horrified. She doesn't want to be anyone's anything, especially if it means losing her independence.
But then Annie finds herself falling for Fab. As things go deeply wrong, Annie realises that love can make you do wild, crazy things, and so she sets out to win his heart with a romantic gesture of truly epic proportions!
AMELIA WESTLAKE – Erin Gough | April 2018
Harriet Price is the perfect Rosemead Grammar student – wealthy, smart, overachieving – while Will Everhart is a social-justice warrior with a chip on her shoulder. But when a worrying incident with their swimming coach goes unnoticed by the authorities, the unlikely pair creates an elaborate hoax to bring him down.
As tensions burn throughout their elite private school – and between the two girls – how long can they keep their hoax a secret? And how far would they go to really make a difference?
THE POET X – Elizabeth Acevedo Gough | April 2018
A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
NEVERLAND – Margo McGovern | April 2018
After doing herself near-fatal damage, Kit Learmonth has come home. But it’s a place she hardly recognises: the mermaids are hiding, the witch has packed up her cauldron and the pirates have sailed to more bountiful shores. In their place is Neverland and its inhabitants – damaged teens too sick to be in regular school, but not sick enough to be institutionalised, watched over by her psychiatrist uncle. And Kit is one of them.
Kit has a choice. She can use illicit night-time adventures with her friends and mysterious new boy Rohan to avoid the truth. Or she can separate harsh reality from childhood fantasy and try to remember what happened on the night of her parents’ deaths. What really prompted her family’s departure from the island? Was there a monster who drove them away? Is the monster still there?
The more Kit uncovers, the more she realises that perhaps she should be afraid …
SMALL SPACES – Sarah Epstein | April 18
Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival. At the time nobody believed Tash, and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory’s never spoken about the week she went missing. As disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. And she realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks?
GROWING UP ABORIGINAL IN AUSTRALIA – Edited Anita Heiss | April 2018
What is it like to grow up Aboriginal in Australia? This anthology, compiled by award-winning author Anita Heiss, attempts to showcase as many diverse voices, experiences and stories as possible in order to answer that question. Each account reveals, to some degree, the impacts of invasion and colonisation – on language, on country, on ways of life, and on how people are treated daily in the community, the education system, the workplace and friendship groups.
Accounts from well-known authors and high-profile identities sit alongside newly discovered voices of all ages, with experiences spanning coastal and desert regions, cities and remote communities. All of them speak to the heart – sometimes calling for empathy, oftentimes challenging stereotypes, always demanding respect.
This groundbreaking anthology aims to enlighten, inspire and educate about the lives of Aboriginal people in Australia today.
SAM AND ILSA’S LAST HURRAH– David Levithan and Rachel Cohen | April 2018
Siblings Sam and Ilsa Kehlmann have spent most of their high school years throwing parties for their friends--and now they've prepared their final blowout, just before graduation.
The rules are simple: each twin gets to invite three guests, and the other twin doesn't know who's coming until the partiers show up at the door. With Sam and Ilsa, the sibling revelry is always tempered with a large dose of sibling rivalry, and tonight is no exception.
One night. One apartment. Eight people. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, we all know the answer is plenty. But plenty also goes right, as well...in rather surprising ways.
BONESLAND – Brendan Lawley | May 2018
A ‘wild ride for young adults through the small-town agonies of adolescence—sex, drugs, love and hip hop’.
BRONTIDE – Sue McPherson | June 2018
A coming of age story about four young men aged between twelve and seventeen.
GOOD GIRL – Lily Wilkinson | August 2018
Seventeen-year-old Pru Palmer lives with her twin sisters Grace and Blythe and their father Rick, on the outskirts of a isolated mining community. Rick is a doomsday prepper. He has a secret bunker filled with non-perishable food and a year’s worth of water. Each of the girls has a ‘bug out bag’ packed with water purification tablets, protein bars, paraocord bracelets and epipens for Pru’s anaphylaxis.
One day while their father’s at the min, the power goes out. At their house, and in the town. No one knows why. All communication Is cut. It doesn’t take long for everything to unravel/ In town, supplies run out and people get desperate. The sister’s decide to keep their bunker a secret. The world is different; the rules are different. Survival is everything…but what if it isn’t the end of the world after all?
CATCHING TELLER CROW – Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina | August 2018
Told through the alternating perspectives of two teenage Aboriginal protagonists. Bella Teller accompanies her father, a police detective, sent to investigate a fire in a children’s home that has left a body in its wake. But Beth died month before in a car accident and now exists between worlds, unable to move on until she is sure her father will be able to function without her. Her story intersects with that of Isobel Catching, a witness to the fire, who relates a tale of monsters and other worlds. As the murders escalate, Catching’s otherworldly tale intersects with Beth’s otherworldly reality to reveal horrifying violence lurking beneath the surface of the town.
How friggen awesome are these covers?? Almost every one is so eye catching and bright I love it.
What 2018 YA releases are you looking forward to? Are any of your faves on this list, did I miss out on any really exciting releases for next year?