Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats – Alicia Potter – Ill: Brigitta Sif

Just adorable. A great theme of ‘you can overcome your fears’ told with cats, with encouragement from the gentle and understanding Miss Hazeltine.  I really like the messages sent through this story.  Miss Hazeltine has set up a home for cats that don’t seem to fit in due to one fear or another, but through her gentle and un-pushing nature helps them become comfortable and confident that they can do things despite being scared. I would recommend this for the child who is having issues with being worried or anxious about doing something new or scary.

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Sylvie the Second – Kaeli Baker

Wow, talk about heavy. Yet this was an easy read despite the content as I read this in a day over a few hours.  Our story teller Sylvie is unnoticed in the middle of her crumbling family.  Her older sister Cate (Calamity Cate as Sylvie calls her) has mental health issues and is hospitalized again for trying to take her own life.  Sylvie, is fed up with always coming in last next to her sister and being completely unnoticed at school.  She dyes her hair and buys some new clothes becoming a completely different person overnight.  This gets her noticed, especially by the boy she’s really into, but also by people she really doesn’t need in her life.

She goes to a party just before school lets out for the year, this story happens over about a three month stretch, including Christmas and New Years, during New Zealand’s summer, and gets into trouble.  She’s caught the eye of the wrong guy and he ends up raping her at the party.  This leaves her confused and miserable.

Her parents are so wrapped up in their own dissolving marriage and hurt and pain of their first born in the mental ward, that they completely skim over Sylvie when she really needs them most.  The only person in her corner is her best friend Belle (of the books, Sylvie is really into alliteration) who helps her get her feet again over the summer as Sylvie struggles with the fallout of her own and others actions.

I rather enjoyed this book, despite the content and feel it gives a good account of how someone so young might deal with the issue of rape.  It also deals with everything positively as I felt Sylvie made all the best possible choices in dealing with her dilemma.

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

I must admit, I tried to read this book about three times.  It was lent to me by a good friend and took me ages to return as I just wasn’t read to read it at the time.  I really am glad now I gave it a proper go.  I quite like Neil Gaiman and have read some of his adult works and some of his poetry, but this is my first foray into his young adult works. I especially enjoyed the language in this book, somewhat difficult and old fashioned, but absolutely rich and expressive.

In this story we follow Bod (full name Nobody Owens), from baby to young adult as he grows up in a graveyard, attended to by the ghostly inhabitants and his guardian Silas, who is a different creature unto himself. As we watch Bod grow he eventually begins to wonder about what happened to his real parents, killed by a man named Jack for an unknown reason.  But just as Bod is beginning to wonder about his family we find that the killed Jack is still looking for Bod, meaning he cannot leave the safety the graveyard has granted him.

Despite having an unorthodox childhood, he still hits those same milestones of other children and is an exciting read as he goes through all those mistakes and mischief of growing up. Would recommend this one for an older reader(14+) as the language can be a bit complex, but the story should resonate with any teen.

I am Rebecca – Fleur Beale

This book is the second in a burgeoning series by Fleur Beale called ‘The Children of the Faith’.  We follow fourteen year old Rebecca through the rituals of engagement and marriage in a Christian cult like setting within New Zealand.  For those of you familiar with New Zealand’s Gloriavale, a Christian community branded as a cult, this is the essential background and inspiration for this tale. We follow as Rebecca is forced to accept whichever single male of age proposes to her father (she’s not even allowed to be there!), while she has no say in any decision made in her life.

I found this book rather disheartening as a feminist, watching as Rebecca was simply forced to accept what was happening around her without consultation or explanation. In saying that I can see how this might be quite eye opening for a teen, seeing how secretive and silent her and her twin Rachel must be due to how little freedom they are afforded.  This could be a good read for a teen struggling with a lack of perceived freedom as it can show  exactly how bad it could get and may actually be for a person really in Rebecca’s place.