Matata the reading Bengal cat by Justin Atkins on Flickr The longlist for the 2009 Inkys has been out for a while, but I’m experiencing some thesis induced insanity at the moment and the Inkys just remind me of all that YA reading I have to catch up on. You may notice Matata the reading cat has a predilection for classics, but she’s not averse to YA in between. I think she could out-read Inky the dog any day of the week.

When I first saw the list I thought the best book of recent times, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, outranked everything else, even the books I hadn’t read :P

Skim by Mariko & Jillian Tamaki But then I read Skim by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki which utterly captivated me and The Hunger Games moved down my list. I hadn’t noticed Skim was on the Inkys list at first, but how could such a masterpiece of word and image (my two fav things) not be. I didn’t think its graphic novel-ness was the deciding factor in my opinion. But perhaps it was because it’s the combination of the words and pictures which I love so much, especially the full and double page spreads of illustration, with Skim’s diary creeping across the scene. My favourite is Skim and Lisa trying to summon the dead boy’s spirit in the woods, and missing him because they’re facing the wrong way (right). Its partial repetition on the end papers makes for a beautiful book design.

My favourite words in Skim are repeated in the blurb. The Inkys page also has them, but they missed the most important line (you can’t trust a dog with ink on his paws)

I had a dream
I put my hands
inside my chest
and held my heart

to try to keep it still

The unusual angles, tantalizingly crossed out words of Skim’s diary and obscuring of Skim’s face so much of the time, until she finds herself and an unexpected friend, combine to make a work of art on a very different level to The Hunger Games. And I much preferred the UK/Aust cover to the Canadian.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is also illustrated, by Ellen Forney, but I wasn’t as impressed with this book. When I first flicked through and saw pictures, I was very excited and expected great things. The illustrations are very funny and important to the story, as Junior explains,

I draw all the time…I draw because words are too unpredictable…I draw because I feel like it might be my only real chance to escape the reservation.

Others don’t share my view of their importance because Ellen Forney’s name is relegated to the title page. (At first I thought Alexie had drawn the pictures.) I thought parts of the story were inauthentic. If a narrator says he has a stutter, but won’t be talking with a stutter in the story, what’s the point? Mentioning the stutter was a waste of words if it wasn’t going to be used. And when a short and glasses wearing kid turned around a basketball game I was ready to throw the book across the room. It’s difficult to play sport with glasses. I know this from preferring to skate without glasses, where long distance vision doesn’t really matter (but a slam with glasses does). When the ball’s at the other end of the court I reckon basketball needs long distance vision in both eyes. Was I not paying attention when Junior found some spare change at home that someone hadn’t drunk and got himself contacts? And a bulimic girl coming out of the bathroom having just thrown up is not about to make friends with the school loser, she’s more likely to tell him to fuck off and make up some story about him so he doesn’t say anything about her.

Close the Gap: Demand Indigenous Health Equality My book group did Part Time Indian and I wanted to bring up all these quibbles, but I didn’t make it that night, so all I have is whining here. I realise Part Time Indian tells the important story of the horrendous life of so many indigenous people and is just as applicable in Australia, where alcohol kills so many Indigenous Australians and sport gets them out of a situation which should never happen in a country with such affluence. I hope The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian gets the wide readership it deserves and teenage readers aren’t as picky as me.

My book group did also did Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah. Obviously there’s a theme here because I missed that night too, when I had so much to say about Where the Streets Had a Name. I disliked Does My Head Look Big In This? so I never read Ten Things I Hate About Me. People in my book group went to Reading Matters and were impressed with Randa Abdel-Fattah, so wanted to read her latest. I groaned inwardly, but went along with it. I’m interested in Palestine and the Israeli occupation which entails appalling abuses of human rights. When I started reading I couldn’t put it down, although there were lots of tears. Her descriptions of the land they lost were enthralling.

A pang of love for my country suddenly strikes through me. That lazy way the trees and bushes dot the land. The effortless beauty of the mountains and the secrets hidden within them.

I feel like this about the land where I live, although it’s not “my country” I love but “the country” – the land and its bush and wildlife which surrounds me. Even in the city I seek it out and glory in the nature which manages to thrive. I also love the passage which explains the title, although I had a tendency to call it Where the Streets Had No Name (being the pessimist I am). Btw I heard when I eventually made it to book group that they didn’t like it. I think their reading didn’t compare to Randa Abdel-Fattah’s lawyerly talking it up. But my brother, who only reads “literature” and never YA, has borrowed my copy of Where the Streets Had a Name. He’s also interested in Palestine and I did my own talking it up, which convinced him, although I’m yet to hear his verdict.

I loved Secret Scribbled Notebooks and like Joanne Horniman*

I liked being in their world so much that I wanted to immerse myself again.

Unfortunately for me my local library system (which has 6 libraries) doesn’t have My Candlelight Novel or Screw Loose by Chris Wheat** which I’ve also wanted to read all year. What is their problem? Do they not know I don’t have the money to buy every book that I must read otherwise I will die?? The library does have The Beginner’s Guide to Living by Lia Hills (perhaps they don’t want me to die :P) I only recently discovered and borrowed it, so it’s on the pile to read. And I’m not even meant to be reading YA, but getting through thesis books that are going back to the library in a month-ish (when I submit!!!)

Girl at Sea isn’t Maureen Johnson’s latest book. I don’t know what the criteria for getting on the list is, but perhaps their copy of Suite Scarlett hadn’t arrived yet. I love MJ’s books and blog, where she dispenses unrivalled advice on any topic you care to ask about, even at 4 in the morning. eg.

Hamsters cannot live inside your brain. This would kill both you and the hamster. Hamsters control your brain remotely. They can do this from up to 500 miles away.

For some strange reason I haven’t read all her books (obviously wasting too much book reading time on her blog) but I’ve just requested Girl at Sea from the library (yes, I was astounded they had it). While my book buying budget is non-existent, I do own and loved Suite Scarlett. Its sequel Scarlett Fever is at the proof stage. Due to warfare btween MJ and the Real John Green I’ve been planning a dual/duel review of Suite Scarlett and Paper Towns for a while. Since both are contenders for the Inkys this might happen next weekend, as long as my own warfare with that evil thesis doesn’t get in the way.

Paper Towns is very good, although I preferred Alaska and Katherines. The problem I had with Paper Towns had nothing to do with the book, but rather the reader. And it wasn’t that I didn’t like the book and thus thought it shit, as Shannon Hale and John Green warned against in reviewing. I know Paper Towns is a good book but…check back later.

I haven’t read Exposure by Mal Peet, but I know I have to. I loved Tamar (the Australian cover is infinitely better than the UK), but never tried his football novels because I thought that’s all they were. I’ve been informed they’re so much more, so I’m seeking out Exposure.

In my opinion Into White Silence by Anthony Eaton isn’t YA. Just cause you’ve written books for teenagers doesn’t mean that’s all you ever write. Of course, not having read the book I have no basis for this view, but that never stopped me before :P There’s another small problem I have with Into White Silence. After reading The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean I was so traumatized I’m not sure I can ever read about Antarctica again. The other thing is I’ve read very few of AE’s books. I loved The Girl in the Cave with pictures (what more could I want!) by John Danalis (I loved his Dog 37). Sadly, I just discovered I’m the only person in Australia who liked Girl in the Cave. Don’t be disappointed AE there’s one happy reader, although she borrowed her copy from the library. Now’s the time to find and buy an elusive copy from its 6 year old first print run.

Back to Into White Silence. Due to a strange affliction I acquired after becoming a kids’ librarian I can only listen to adult books. If I get over my Antarctic phobia, perhaps one day I’ll get the audio book of Into White Silence from the library. My current adult book listening has been classics, classics and more classics. This has nothing to do with me; my dad keeps getting them from the library and throwing them my way with words of encouragement – he doesn’t want me to finish that evil thesis. There was a slight non-classics interlude of murder and mayhem in the form of The Chopin Manuscript (by a gaggle of writers – the latest marketing ploy). After putting all the discs on my MP3o I got to disc 3 and it was a repeat of disc 2!? I had to listen to Modest Mouse to get over my stupidity. I have discovered Charles Dickens is funny, not in quite the same way as Maureen Johnson, but Oliver Twist makes me laugh, in between squirming with disgust at the atrocious behaviour of every adult in the story.

Back to the Inkys. My must-read list has grown with the rest I’ve missed (or just didn’t care about and maybe should)

  1. Broken Glass by Adrian Stirling
  2. Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell
  3. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  4. Jarvis 24 by David Metzenthen
  5. Love, Aubrey by Suzanne La Fleur
  6. Ten Mile River by Paul Griffin
  7. The 10pm Question by Kate de Goldi
  8. Two Pearls of Wisdom by Alison Goodman
  9. Worldshaker by Richard Harland

*My one year old niece has the beautiful name Mahalia, but I don’t think her parents got the name from Joanne Horniman’s Mahalia
**Chris Wheat writes occasional thought provoking articles for The Age


Matata belongs to and was photographed by Justin Atkins