#191: Pick a top five

After reading like crazy for a month in preparation for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival and the CYA Later, Alligator conference in Brisbane, here are my top five picks (limited to (a) people I’m going to see, and (b) books available from the public library):

5. James Roy – Anonymity Jones

As a rule, I get very bored by books about high school/teenage life. This one hooked me by having style. I’m incapable of resisting a fabulous narrative voice. It also turned out to go farther than the norm, dealing with some scary/creepy older man issues.

Rating: M for the possibility of a much older man liking a teenage girl.

Recommended: Teens (especially girls) and up.

4. Prue Mason – Camel Rider and Destination Abudai.

Both of these books are set in or near the fictional city of Abudai, a town based on many oil-rich towns in the Middle East. I liked the high-adventure stories (Camel Rider is better), I liked the setting (it’s not fantasy, but the desert landscapes are wonderfully harsh and detailed), and I liked most of all that Mason really knows Middle Eastern Islam – the good, the bad, and the simply different.

Rating: PG for religion including polygamy (worth a discussion with kids), and mild violence.

Recommended age: 9 and up, including adults. I think teenagers are the best age for these books.

3. David Metzenthen – Jarvis 24

I told you I’m a sucker for narrative voice. Metzenthen may just be the king of the masculine voice (and yes, being a man is an advantage, but no-one writes boys this well). The whole time I read the book, I felt like I was a teenage boy. His thoughts (mostly about girls, and sport, and how to impress girls with sport) were my thoughts, his random conversations were completely involving (and hilarious), and the girl he fell for meant everything to me, too. Metzenthen also handles homosexuality honestly, via another character (it’s not really about homosexuality, it’s about other people’s reactions).

Rating: PG for homosexuality, mild violence, and the world’s most subtle sex scene (I’d consider it child-safe. That’s how subtle it is).

Recommended for: All straight people. All teenage boys. All teenage girls. And everyone else, too.

I buy about a book a year. I’m buying this one – mainly so that in 20 years, when I have teenagers, they can read it. Seriously.

Free sample: So Trav and I go to the movies, and although it’s a long way below our dignity, it is better than doing nothing at all.

“At least we’ll see chicks,” says Trav, as my dad drops us off, somewhat uncoolly, in a Disabled Parking Zone.

This is true, as going to the movies on a Saturday night obviously isn’t considered such a bad option by girls. In fact, the place is packed. Some of them are probably even here to see some of that subtitled arty-farty rubbish where grumpy French chicks shout non-stop, smoke topless in bed, or carry home their shopping through Paris in the dark, often in the rain.

PS I’ve also read the Aussie Bites story, The Really Really High Diving Tower by the same author, for younger kids. It was funny, and one of the best in the excellent Aussie Bites series. And it also had a fabulous masculine energy about it.

I may have mentioned I like boys.

2. Glenda Millard – A Small Free Kiss in the Dark

My heart broke on every page of this book. It was frightening (I absolutely believed that Canberra was getting bombed – although Canberra isn’t specifically named as the setting), and uplifting, and utterly vulnerable. The narrator is a runaway 12-year old boy living on the streets. And then the city is bombed, and it’s wartime. There’s also a war veteran (also homeless), a 15-year old ballerina, and a baby. Most importantly, there is kindness.

Rating: M for sex and violence and both (none of it is graphic, but because she’s a good writer, the bad stuff hurts)

Recommended for: Teens and up.

1. Chris Moore – The Stupidest Angel

This is simply one of the funniest and most eccentric books I’ve ever read. The thing that made it the very best, for me, was a B-movie actress trying not to slip into her delusion that she really is a warrior woman (particularly confusing since she has sword skills, and memories of slaying monsters). It is hilarious, but also (in my opinion) a realistic depiction of those times when you realise, “Oh, I really should be on medication right now. But I’m not. So how do I TRY to act sane?” It’s fantasy in the sense that impossible stuff happens (eg. an evil zombie Santa), but it’s set in the real world. The relationships are wonderfully described – for once, it’s about how to stay in love, and what that actually looks like. I told a friend how much I liked “this crazy, funny book” and when I said it was by Chris Moore, his eyes widened (literally) and he said, “Ah. Yes. He is a very strange man.”

Rating: M. Moore has written a warning himself, that includes, “zombies, tasteful depictions of cannibalism, and people in their forties having sex”. Having read the book, that warning says everything anyone needs to know. I read an edition that added a darker short story at the end – it had a serial killer, and more violence. Still funny, though.

Recommended for: Precocious teens, adults. People in their forties 🙂

I will definitely read more books by this hilarious nutcase. Unfortunately, he’s not actually at the conferences I’m going to – I ordered his book by mistake.

From flickr.com, here’s your pic of the day:

PS Today’s Friday, so normally I’d be posting the twitter tale so far. Since it ends tomorrow, I’ll hold off and post the complete tale then.

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