Book reviews for Aussie teachers and their students.

Posts tagged ‘Cecily Anne Paterson’

Book Review: “Invincible” by Cecily Anne Paterson, Cecily Anne Paterson (2014)

invincible coverTrends in YA fiction may come and go, but if there is one genre that never goes out of fashion it is Contemporary.  The reason for this is reasonably straightforward.  YA Contemporary fiction, fulfils an important role in the lives of young people, helping them to make sense of and navigate their way through what is a challenging and emotionally-charged stage in their lives.  Consequently, a great deal of these books tend to be of the quiet kind, little stories set in fairly normal (even mundane) settings.  I do wonder sometimes, if many of these books are lost, overlooked by publishers in favour of larger scale stories, big and loud.  This is a shame because quite often, it is these quiet stories that speak to our young people the loudest and serve their needs best.

A few months ago I had the opportunity to review Cecily Anne Paterson’s delightful Contemporary, InvisibleInvisible, is one of these quiet, unassuming stories that has so much to offer middle grade readers.  I won’t go into the plot of this novel (although I do encourage you to read the review here) since my focus here is Paterson’s sequel, which is aptly titled Invincible.  The sequel continues the story of 13 year-old Jazmine Crawford.  From the outset it is apparent that Jazmine has reason to be a much happier girl than she was in the first book.  No longer invisible, she has a strong group of friends surrounding her, including best friend Gabby and boyfriend Liam.  Her hearing loss, which featured strongly as an issue in the first book, takes more of a back seat here.  Superficially at least, Jazmine’s life seems perfect.  It makes sense then, that Jazmine can’t explain why she is plagued by nightmares and why Liam’s escalating advances leave her feeling uncomfortable in a way that she finds difficult to articulate.

As the mother of a 12 year old girl I applaud Paterson for her sensitive addressing of a range of issues that a middle school audience will find relevant.  On one level she frankly investigates the increasing complexities of teenage relationships as a whole.  The melodrama of many of the characters is certainly typical of the behaviour of many of the teens I work with.  However, what impressed me the most, was her sensitive approach to the way in which Jazmine feels when pressured into a sexual relationship that she is just not ready for.  Rather than become all preachy (and show us the terrible things that might follow if she was to give in), she focuses on normalising Jazmine’s feelings towards this.  We witness how, with support, she navigates her way through these emotions to become empowered, independent and ultimately invincible.

One of the things I really like about this book (and the first episode too) is the way that Paterson has elected to market the book.  Realistically, this is a story suited to the younger teen or tween market, sitting perfectly in a middle school setting (although edging towards the lower end of this).  Many of the books in this niche are marketed in quite a juvenile way often with covers that are interpreted by the target audience as being too young (even babyish).  Instead, Paterson has chosen cover art that feels quite grown-up by comparison.  I imagine that this will give the book great appeal for students, although I do worry that some primary school librarians will think it is more suitable for a secondary context.

While I would not personally teach this as shared class novel, it would work really well as an option for small group reading circles at grade 7 or 8.  In doing so it could pair well with other Contemporary novels; Cath Crowley’s The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain or even the classic Robin Klein novel, Hating Alison Ashley.

Beautifully crafted and written with startling sensitivity, Invincible explores the frequently confusing nature of teenage relationships.  In doing so, she shares with her audience an inspiring message guaranteed to resonate strongly with emerging young women of today.

To purchase Invincible, or any of Paterson’s other titles head on over to the book depository, fishpond, Amazon or go directly to Paterson’s website.

Tanya Grech Welden

“Invisible” by Cecily Anne Paterson, Cecily Anne Paterson (2013)

InvisbleThe publishing industry is in a massive spin right now with the major houses being challenged by the influx of self-published authors contesting their own titles on bookstore shelves.  Of course, a great deal of this has been fuelled by online digital publishing, which has made self-publishing far more accessible.  Inevitably, this revolution has both positive and negative implications for the industry with some books being released clearly being below standard.  This makes sense when one considers that a self-published author must source their own editors and graphic designers before working independently (and tirelessly) to promote the title without the usual connections that the traditional publishing houses have.  However, at the other side of the spectrum, self-publishing, has launched the careers of many emerging authors.  I often think of Hugh Howey and his highly successful “Wool” series, which gained him great acclaim (and greater financial rewards than he may have received had he gone the traditional route).

However, this post is not on the topic of the publishing revolution.  Rather, I wanted to explain my mixed emotions upon receiving a copy of Cecily Anne Paterson’s self-published YA Contemporary Invisible.  First impressions count with me, although, as any English teacher will tell you; they count even more as far as young people are concerned, and it doesn’t matter how many times we tell them not to judge a book by its cover they still do!  Paterson’s novel is beautifully packaged, both digitally and in hard copy, with a savvy cover that will appeal to the most discerning adolescent reader.  In fact, this professional approach extends beyond the cover to a story that is meticulously edited to industry standard.  From this point I want to forget that this is a self-published title because if I didn’t look too closely I would never have known.

Invisible tells the story of middle school student Jazmine Crawford.  Jazmine has perfected the art of disappearing into the crowd, a skill she mastered after the death of her father when she was nine and the constant moving from town to town that followed.  She also lives with a disability, partial hearing loss, which conveniently allows her to withdraw even further.  When Jazmine gets into trouble at school she is forced to participate in the school production of The Secret Garden and she can no longer disappear into the background but must learn to tackle her problems head on as she confronts her own Goliath in the form of the school bully Shalini.  Invisible explores the key themes of bereavement and loss, bullying, living with disability and to a lesser extent the impact of depression.  This is a classic coming of age story about the desire to belong and will appeal to readers in the lower end of the middle years.

With a range of pertinent themes and language that is well crafted, Invisible would be an excellent choice for shared class reading, with the story working well as an introductory text for students new to High School (Grade 7 or 8 depending on the state or school you teach in).  It would pair well with Steven Herrick’s Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain or similar and will work well when used in reading circles or independent study.

Jazmine is a convincing character whose lack of self-certainty is as relatable as her personal growth is refreshing.  In fact, I only had one very small gripe with the story; a group of students were suspended from school for 3 weeks!  The teacher in me felt this to be a little severe even for a serious crime.   A small thing really and I wonder if an interesting debate on this punishment might follow a class reading of this.  Invisible is sensitively written story that will appeal to a broad range of readers in the lower middle years.  A title well worth the extra effort to locate and place it on your school library shelves.

Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden

** Invisible  is available in digital and hard copy format online via the following retailers.  For bulk orders please contact the author Cecily Anne Paterson or the printer Ingram Spark.**

***The author provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  I have otherwise not been paid for reviewing this book and my opinions reflect my own unbiased opinion.***

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