#LoveOzYa Book Bingo Wrap Up

Image result for loveozya logo

Image result for loveozya logo

I was incredibly excited when I learnt about this bingo because while I am already doing many challenges and bingos this year, I couldn’t ignore one so specifically up my alley. From the best intentions to dive into this on 1 Oct, I actually didn’t get going until two weeks in which to me makes my achievement even greater.

As I was struggling in that last week to make up a bingo and find the books that would fill the categories I needed but were of a reasonable length that I could actually finish them in time, the temptation to include the same book for multiple categories was high but I felt it wasn’t in the true spirit of bingo. I also cursed all the YA books I’d read during the year which I couldn’t include since they were read outside of October. Thankfully I managed to get there in the end and even had a couple of choices for lines at one point.

I’ve included a list of the books I read below, some I have already reviewed, some I will be hopefully reviewing in the coming weeks . I really hope the #LoveOzYA team do this again soon or make it a regular thing because I had a lot of fun and not only did I get books of my TBR list finally, I read some truly amazing Aussie YA in the process. I am now planning on finishing the card because I think it is a great way to diversify my reading and there’re a great many more books I would like to read that fill in some of these squares.

 

Fantasy: Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

High School: You Must be Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied

LGBTQIA: Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin

Contemporary: My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg

Historical: Emmie and the Tudor King by Natalie Murray

Sci Fi: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman

Start of a Series: Foundling by D. M. Cornish

Stand Alone: Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park

Own Voices: When the Ground is Hard by Malla Nunn

You Must Be Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Published: 5th March 2019 (print)/5th March 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin/Penguin
Pages: 288/5 hrs and 21 mins
Narrator: Yassmin Abdel-Magied
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Layla’s mind goes a million miles a minute, so does her mouth – unfortunately her better judgement can take a while to catch up! Although she believes she was justified for doing what she did, a suspension certainly isn’t the way she would have wished to begin her time at her fancy new high school. Despite the setback, Layla’s determined to show everyone that she does deserve her scholarship and sets her sights on winning a big invention competition. But where to begin?

Looking outside and in, Layla will need to come to terms with who she is and who she wants to be if she has any chance of succeeding.

I have mixed thoughts about this book. I enjoyed parts of it, and how it didn’t become an Issue book, but at the same time I think it didn’t do enough to flesh out the issues it does raise. In essence it is a good story, there is a balance between Layla being the Minority Spokesperson but there is also a universal story about finding your place in the new school and being the awkward age of being a teenager.

Layla has dreams and she makes sacrifices to achieve those dreams. I like that there is a protagonist who isn’t shy and meek, or a full on fighter, she is loud and cheerful, which she is completely ok with, and she has goals.  She screams self-confidence and her Sudanese and Muslim traditions are part of her day and not huge plot points in the narrative, it’s a background part.

There are themes of ethnicity, belonging, family, and bullying which are all dealt with reasonably well. One thing doesn’t stand out as the main point of the book, they are all woven together like they are in life, coming and going and being ever present in the background. I did love that Layla doesn’t have to stop being a teenager to become a fighter against the bullying or an advocate for her heritage, she could just enjoy her life.

It pays to remember this is the narration of a thirteen year old girl and those around her are year eight students which is a great eye opener to the next generation because while some parts were reminding me of my own year eight experience, the language and the technology is a new experience. There are also great male/female friendships. I was worried at the start based on how Abdel-Magied introduced them, but it was great to see that girls and boys could be friends without it being an issue.

Unfortunately Abdel-Magied’s writing is not entirely seamless, there is some repetition and the language can be clunky. I didn’t mind the teen slang, it may date but that was fine. It was more that I think it needed another edit, needed to be refined a bit more. This is evident listening to the audiobook. Even though Abdel-Magied reads it herself, and she does a decent job, it makes you even more aware of the writing as it can be jarring at times and highlights the flaws.

It skirts along big issues but doesn’t focus on them any further. Initially a good idea, and while I am glad Layla and the book doesn’t become focused on those issues, by the end I think it needed a bit more depth and maybe more length. In a strange way it felt like the start of a series, that all the issues half introduced in this story would be addressed in the next book. There were a lot of issues half raised and I kept expecting certain things to have more of an impact.

One thing that irked me is I honestly can’t see how this can be classed as an LGBT book like I’ve seen when it happens in the last few pages of the book and has no effect on the plot whatsoever. It could be edited out and it would mean nothing. For all the parts that work, there are just as much that doesn’t. It’s a book that borders on two sets of audiences, kids and teenagers. Layla is 13 and I think anybody over that age won’t get as much out of it as those who are younger. There’s some great messages in there that suit the younger age bracket that can escape being brushed over with minimal depth.

You can purchase You Must Be Layla via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

 

Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin

Published: 1st May 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Black Dog Books
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult/Non-Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Meet Nevo: girl, boy, he, she, him, her, they, them, daughter, son, teacher, student, friend, gay, bi, lesbian, trans, homo, Jew, dyke, masculine, feminine, androgynous, queer. Nevo was not born in the wrong body. Nevo just wants everyone to catch up with all that Nevo is. Personal, political and passionate, Finding Nevo is an autobiography about gender and everything that comes with it.

This has been on my TBR list for ever and I am glad I got to pick it up because I read it in one sitting. I was taken on a fascinating and insightful journey and I am glad Nevo told their story because I think the reflection, the uncertainty, the changes and the messages in the book are something that everyone should read. Some experiences are universal but some are beautifully unique and allow us a brief, edited, yet honest glance at the lives of others.

I did not expect to be crying like a baby at the end of it but that is where I found myself. Even though I have not gone on the exact same journey as Nevo I still felt and related to a lot of what they had experienced and those final pages (no spoilers), but they hit hard and they hit deep which I was well unprepared for.

Nevo’s story isn’t here to be a guide or instruction manual; it is an emotional and thoughtful reflection on their life and at the time being only twenty years old it is a life where a lot has happened. No doubt their experiences have helped make this book one that provides great insight about what finding yourself means, and that you are constantly evolving and changing as you grow and have new experiences.

I don’t think you can read Nevo’s story and see their journey as a definitive one size fits all example of the non-binary queer, Nevo themselves acknowledges they have taken an unexpected path and had many labels attributed to them and identified with. I love that their approach boils down to ‘I am just me’. I think everyone needs to read this and realise that everyone has a different journey and that is ok, and still being uncertain about yourself and what you want is ok too.

I can certainly understand how some of the people in Nevo’s life may feel but not only is it none of their business, but I think you also see their love for Nevo and how their journey is also one everyone around them has gone on too which leave marks. People are only human but I’m glad Nevo has good people around them and as they continue to grow and change however they see fit, that there is a support network.

There is a lot of power in Nevo’s voice as it covers a range of controversial and important topics like religion, gender labels and discrimination, transitioning, the safe-schools program, family, misogyny, not to mention anxiety and mental health. Over their twenty years Nevo has lived a life and now in this autobiography we get to understand the pain, struggles, and passion that makes Nevo’s voice such a powerful one today.

You can purchase Finding Nevo via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

DymocksAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

 

#LoveOzYA Bingo Challenge

Image result for loveozya logo

October has arrived which means I am starting a new reading challenge! If you’re not aware, Australia has its very own Young Adult book community which is celebrated through the hashtag #LoveOzYA. This October the #LoveOzYA team is running their very first Bingo Card, this is a chance to spread the love for Australian young adult books and maybe even tick off some more from your TBR pile.

I am so excited to get started on this challenge, not only to finally catch up on books I’ve had on my shelf for ages wanting to read, but getting to find some new stories and authors to fall in love with that I may not have discovered.

The bingo squares are truly epic. They have easy ones like 2019 releases, outback, contemporary etc, but there’s also awesome ones like wanderlust, 90s, Australian flora and fauna, and mental health. I cannot wait to see what books fall under these categories.

The rules are simple:

“Just like a normal game of bingo, you’re looking to get five squares in a row: horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. You can mark a square off whenever you read a book that matches the criteria in the square, so long as it’s considered an OzYA book. There’s a “free” space in the middle of the board to make it a little easier if you can’t find five books you’d like to read.”

The challenge runs from 1st October until the 31st October but this is a great challenge if you wanted to keep going after October and aim for more than a single line and fill the card by years end. You can download your own bingo sheet here.

If you are new to the Australian YA scene or not sure which books count, never fear, the team have created a handy spreadsheet containing some book recommendations to get you started. They have even included which categories they fall under to make it even easier for you to find the right books and there are over 100 titles already for you to choose from to aide your bingo journey.  Another great place to get started would be to look at the #LoveOzYA October new releases or the #LoveOzYA hashtag can connect you with some amazing books on all the social media platforms. Who knows, you may even find some new authors to fall in love with.

For more information about the #LoveOzYA team, the challenge, or awesome Aussie YA books follow the links below.

#LoveOzYA Website

#LoveOzYA Book Bingo

Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories edited by Michael Earp

Published: 1st June 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Walker Books Australia
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/ Young Adult
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

I love the titles of Anthologies because it is fascinating to see how a theme or concept is explored through so many different voices and narrative styles. For this one, not only are there queer stories, but these stories embody everything that kindred means and stands for.

These stories are not about finding love, or coming out, they are about finding someone who is like you, who knows you and understands you, if there is romance in there, great. But there are many wonderful stories about kids finding another person who understands them, and someone who, whether they know it consciously or not, are supporting them.

Not all characters in this are teens, a couple characters are in their 30s that I can best estimate, others aren’t specified, but their stories are still valid. There are a range of genres and each author has put up a story that encapsulates the theme. Kindred can mean so many things and seeing how each writer has interpreted this is wonderful.

While these are queer stories, they are also #LoveOzYA as well which showcases the great talent our LGBTQIA YA authors have. There are household names and there are new talents I didn’t know and getting some new names added to my #LoveOzYA repertoire is always a bonus. Some of these stories found their own place with me and I particularly loved Waiting by Jen Wilde. I saw myself in that story and it is proof that these stories are for everyone to enjoy.

The range of genres and representation was incredible. There’s representation from so many different cultures and voices and shows why representation matters. The tone across the stories were so different, form light hearted to dystopian, with a few futuristic and fantastic thrown in. There are some tough subjects and harsh realities but I found it refreshing because these authors don’t shy away from the realities of the world but they also treat it with a powerful care and respect.

It was a great decision to include Benjamin Law’s story at the end because while it is a story, it also acts like an essay and it is a thought provoking one that (hopefully) makes people question the things that they may do or say around LGBTQIA people.

With any anthology I am always so in awe of how one theme could be interpreted by so many different genres and approaches. It is a fantastic reminder that no matter what circumstance, no matter what reality, there is a commonality between people and the emotions and desires are universal.

You can purchase Kindred: 12 #LoveOzYA Stories via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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