Book reviews for Aussie teachers and their students.

Posts tagged ‘Clare Strahan’

Book Review: “Pieces of Sky” by Trinity Doyle (2015), Allen & Unwin

pieces of skyTrinity Doyle’s sparkling debut novel, Pieces of Sky, tells the story of Lucy, state backstroke champion.  With a career as an athlete well within her grasp she is fully absorbed in the world of swimming.  When her older brother Cam dies, caught in a powerful rip, Lucy is left emotionally in tatters and unable to do what she loves most, swim.  While struggling to come to terms with her grief Lucy must navigate her feelings for Evan, the new boy, along with questions surrounding what really happened to her brother on the fateful night of his drowning.

Trinity Doyle has crafted a moving story that will speak purposefully to students in the upper end of the middle years and senior students.  The story deals sensitively with the key themes of bereavement, depression, love and adolescent relationships.  Written in an engaging style that will no doubt resonate with a YA audience, Doyle’s prose consistently shimmers with dialogue that walks the line with an honest edginess.  Dealing with sensitive issues such as teenage death and suicide, I was left appropriately inspired and uplifted, yet, was never able to completely surrender to the real darkness of the book’s themes.

In many ways Pieces of Sky lends itself well to shared reading, close study and analysis at grade ten level.  However, the complexity and sensitive nature of the themes, along with descriptive depictions of teenage sexual encounters, may make this a little problematic in some school settings.  Pairing well with the likes of Claire Zorn’s The Protected, Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places, Pip Harry’s Head of the River and Clare Strahan’s Cracked; Pieces of Sky might be a wonderful choice for reading circles or for students undertaking independent close study of fiction.

Pieces of Sky is a hope-filled debut novel that will delight and uplift YA readers.  An absolute must-have for every secondary school library.

Tanya Grech Welden

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“Cracked” by Clare Strahan, Allen & Unwin (2014)

cracked

I often think that debut novels are pretty special.  I imagine that most of them are the final product of an arduous journey; of many months (or years) of great toil only driven by the hope that one day the story may see the light of day.  It follows then that I feel quite honoured then to have the opportunity to review Clare Strahan’s debut novel, the contemporary YA Cracked.

Cracked tells the story of Clover, a fifteen year old girl, who, as the title aptly suggests, is pretty broken.  As the daughter of single mother and hippie-arty-eccentric, Clover is an outsider at school, generally inept at conforming to mainstream youth culture.  She befriends Keek, another misfit who is dealing with his own share of pain.  In fact, the world that Strahan creates is one in which nearly every character, young and old alike, share the common trait of being fractured in some way.  What follows is Clover’s descent, marked by a series of acts of defiance which threaten to take her to a very dangerous place from which there will be no return.

For me I found Clover to be an interesting and highly complex character with many somewhat contradictory qualities.  She is quite sensitive and creative yet her propensity to act spontaneously, (or more accurately acting without any regard for consequences), is a trait I am more accustomed to witnessing in male teens.  I found this viewpoint quite refreshing.

Cracked deals with a range of themes that a young adult audience will find engaging.  In particular, Strahan explores the frailty of human relationships, the trial of trying to fit in whilst maintaining the true essence of who you are.  To a lesser extent the story addresses issues affecting the environment and the search for one’s past, however for me, neither of these were fully resolved by the novel’s conclusion.  Cracked is suitable for students in secondary years, however, some of the content (drug and alcohol use along with reference to sexual encounters), deem it appropriate for students in the upper years.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I did find it a little messy in areas and at times I did wonder where Strahan was directing my attention with the ending a little off the mark.    I felt we left Clover thinking that all her problems were going to be resolved, when in fact, they were only just beginning.  Perhaps in ending the story in this way, Strahan was simply reminding her audience of the messiness of reality and the tendency for real people to be blind-sighted in their decisions by the real issues at hand.

Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden

**Allen & Unwin provided me with a free review copy for this book.  I have otherwise not been paid for any review or endorsement of this book and my opinions reflect my own unbiased view.**

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