We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

“Ten-year-old Darling has a choice: it’s down, or out…We-Need-New-Names

We Need New Names tells the story of Darling and her friends Stina, Chipo, Godknows, Sbho and Bastard. They all used to have proper houses, with real rooms and furniture, but now they all live in a shanty called Paradise. They spend their days stealing guavas, playing games and wondering how to get the baby out of young Chipo’s stomach. They dream of escaping to other paradises – America, Dubai, Europe. But if they do escape, will these new lands bring everything they wish for?”
Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, this book elbowed its way onto my reading list last July. It’s a story about childhood memories, the loss of innocence, being an outsider and yes, the tension between African poverty and Western affluence. While at times the horrors that the children encounter in their shanty town of Paradise seems (perhaps) a tad cliche it is balanced with the vibrancy of typical children; singing Lady Gaga at the top of their lungs, playing invented games and gorging themselves on stolen guavas. The thing I really liked about this novel is the treatment of Darling’s eventual migration to America where the challenges she faces and the changes in her voice as the protagonist, reveal some poignant ideas about cultural differences.
Mature themes including violence and sexual content. MA
Recommendable as a related text for the HSC English Extension 1 Course: Navigating the Global4stars

Red Rising

Red Rising

“Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars, generations of people who spend their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that, one day, people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left. Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down at Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought. Until the day Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

This is book is “gorydamn” good. The best teen-fiction I have ready in a long time! First there was Ender then there was Katniss – now there is Darrow to stand upon their sholders.





“For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs. Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead…A debut novel by Veronica Roth that will leave you breathless.”

If you loved The Hunger Games then Divergent is for you! This book explores friendship under pressure, teenage love and the challenge of living in a world of dystopic government control.



Ender’s Game

Ender's Game

“To save mankind they need a hero, but are they creating a monster?”

Ender Wiggin is a child prodigy. Born into a futuristic Earth at a time when humanity live in fear of a second Bugger invasion from outer space. Ender is whisked away to Battle School as a small child where he must deal with low grav, stun lasers and a war that threatens to take away everything he loves.

Fast paced and  stomach lurching this classic sci-fi will not disappoint.

5stars PG

A History of the World in 10.5 Chapters

Julian Barnes Ten Half Julian Barnes takes readers on a journey through a series of tenuously interconnected chapters. From a stowaway woodworm to a cruise liner held hostage, Barnes asks readers to question the purpose of narrative as a means of information transfer. In classic Barnes fashion issues of historiography are rampantly at work and the notions of history and memory are challenged. This is a great read for senior students who are looking to explore post-modern fiction. M4stars

Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides

resized_9780747561620_224_297_FitSquare“A rollicking family epic like no other, Middlesex follows three generations of the Stephanides family from 1920’s Greece to Detroit in the mid to late 20th century to contemporary Berlin. Brother and sister Lefty and Desdemona flee a crumbling Ottoman Empire in 1922; by the time their ship docks in New York they are husband and wife. The narrator of this funny and humane tale is their grandchild Cal, who as a result of their unusual liaison was born a girl but grows into a man.”

Sounds bizarre right? Not exactly a quaint story about the English countryside, but perhaps that is exactly what makes this such a compelling and compassionate novel. The historical time periods spanned by this intricate story are as rich and enchanting as they are shocking and horrific. As a reader I travelled through time alongside the Stephanides family and through the focalisation of Cal, explored the complex nature of transition, identity, belonging and the way the past always seems to come back. It is about heritage and loss, growing up and healing, discrimination and acceptance, success and poverty. A beautiful story full of humour and tragedy. Learned a lot and loved it.
5stars MA


FeedFeed by MT Anderson challenges the incessant dissemination of internet connectivity into our lives. Clothes can be bought with a thought, only people with a feed are given access to exclusive events and chatting with friends has never been easier. This book explores what happens when technology and social networking go on unchecked and the prediction is startling in its foresight.  A great read and a thoughtful comment on the trajectory of social progression.


Assassin’s Apprentice

robin hobb

In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.
Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.

So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.



The Way of Shadows

way of shadows

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city’s most accomplished artist.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly – and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange new histories which may change everything.