Aussie YA fiction

I’ve recently been thrown back into the world of Young Adult (YA) novels. I am a fan, but I don’t often read them. But a few things in the last few weeks have got me thinking about the importance of YA novels in Australia.

Boomerang Books released the results from their survey on the most popular Aussie novels, not based on sales, but on a survey where readers indicated which novels they had read in their entirety. I’ve detailed the top 24 below but the entire list is worth a look.

#1 – Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs
#2 – Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
#3 – Storm Boy by Colin Thiele
#4 – Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
#5 – Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
#6 –  Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
#7 – Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
#8 –  I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall
#9 – Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park
#10 – Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
#11 – Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette
#12 – Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey
#13 – Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
#14 – Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
#15  – April Fool’s Day by Bryce Courtenay
#16 –  Harp in the South Novels by Ruth Park
#17 –  My Brilliant Career & My Career Goes Bung by Miles Franklin
#18 – Jessica by Bryce Courtenay
#19  – My Place by Sally Morgan
#20  – For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke
#21 – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
#22 – Dirt Music by Tim Winton
#23 – Breath by Tim Winton
#24 – So Much to Tell You by John Marsden.

There are a few reasons why children’s and YA text featured highly. Firstly they are typically shorter, and secondly we usually read them as set texts through school (many of the novels listed don’t necessarily fit into the YA category but their inclusion in high school reading lists mean that they are read by large numbers of young adults.) But if this survey is any indication and these books are our most read, then it’s so important that they keep getting produced and recognised. All of the children and YA books on the list are set in Australia, except Tomorrow, when the war began which was written without specification of location or nationality. I remember as I child and later as a teen I loved reading Australian locations more than the English countryside or boarding schools of Enid, Roald or Beatrix. Give me a magic pudding over a magic far away tree any day.

This survey spurred me, along with the death of Ruth Park, to pull an old copy of Playing Beatie Bow off the shelf. I bought a second hand copy about a year ago because I vaguely remembered the film. What I did remember about it was that I loved it, and was obsessed with the idea of a ghostly playmate from the past all summer holidays at my grandparents (surely grandparents houses are the best places for ghosts from the past – but alas no luck). So in the first week of 2011 I decided I’d finally get around to reading it. It reminded me of all the reasons that YA is important. It reminded me about tension; there’s nothing that will get your blood going faster than a good chase/kidnap scene. It got me thinking about my own novel, which is historical, and how to get those pages turning faster. No one ever grows out of loving great tension, and fast paced plot, but for some reason it is lacking in a lot of adult fiction. Why is that?

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Australian history through fiction, and as a child of the ‘80’s (1980s that is) I did smirk at a few sayings as I read Paying Beatie Bow. It was so refreshing to know that other people also love to learn about this (it was rated #9 on the list). I do have my reservations about the novel tying up so tidily with Mum and Dad back together and Abigail falling in love, but perhaps that’s another post.

Finally, I can’t wrap this up without a little plug. As the publicity officer at Ballarat Writers I have to spruik the Ballarat Writers Festival. In 2010 the festival focussed on Children’s and YA writing, which was such a huge success it’s being repeated for 2011.

 Keep an eye out via for details for this year.

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