THE IMMORTALISTS BY CHLOE BENJAMIN – HACHETTE, ADULT FICTION
Based on the premise of how would you live your life if you knew when you were going to die, I was completely absorbed into the world of Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists. Split into numerous sections we begin with the four Gold siblings aged between 7yo and 13yo residing in 1969 NYC with their Jewish parents Gertie and Saul, and who together dare to learn the date of their deaths from a fortune teller Romi Traveller. How this influences each of the children’s life choices and whether they believe the news or not is shown in their own chapter partitions with great skill and focus from a writer who has only written one book previously (Anatomy of Dreams) .
The youngest, Simon, uses his surprisingly early date to inspire him to follow his true self as a gay man and move to San Francisco in the 1980s right at the start of the AIDS epidemic. Klara, who is two years older, encourages his escape and goes with him so she can pursue her dream career as a magician. Plagued by alcohol addiction and the fear of her impending date, she still embarks on a great romance with Raj who teaches her that home is where your loved ones are not where you live. Daniel ignores the prediction given to him and pursues a career in medicine and the military, however the date will eventually haunt him like the others. Finally, we come to the eldest Varya who has spent time caring for their ailing mother Gertie and then pursuing a career in biological science. Her fated date predicted the longest life, yet her guilt at various decisions and losses makes her live a life more constrained than her siblings. At times her story made me recall Fowler’s We are All Completely Beside Ourselves- beautifully tragic.
This novel with its gorgeous family tree type cover address big questions like loyalty, guilt, fear, passion and being true to yourself -yet the whole time feels like an intimate conversation. Far from just separate stories of each Gold sibling across the decades, Benjamin hones in on the key milestones of each main protagonist and cleverly interweaves these with authentic yet fraught interactions with those they call brother, sister, or their needy mother. Faced with their mortality in an urgent, profound sense, we see their struggles to live a life worth living, and make meaningful connections within their family unit as well as with others but it isn’t always a neatly tied package – and this is what was endearing about the Golds and as a novel. Life isn’t like that. Almost constructed like a family mystery, these characters each individually and collectively make an impact and stay with you after you close the final satisfying page. Thoroughly enjoyable and affecting.
Out now $32.99rrp.
NINJA KID BY ANH DO
I loved the hilarious Hotdog which was the series Anh Do wrote after the very popular Weirdo series, so was keen to get my hands on his new series Ninja Kid. I immediately liked the concept of a nerdy school kid (which I was not) getting superpowers (which I wished for like every kid) and realising his family were secret ninjas (well my dad was a martial arts instructor who trained me but close enough).
As a stand up comedian with kids of his own, Anh really nails the comic elements that appeal to young kids who are fans of this genre, but he also manages to insert more realistic experiences and mystery challenges for Nelson and this gives the book extra appeal to digest and discuss perhaps with parents or with schoolmates about some of the predicaments he finds himself in and what he does and what he learns.
The visual cartoons by Jeremy Ley work well with the text and by breaking up the text make it seem less overwhelming for those who are moving into books that carry a character development through a longer book.
This is for fans of Bad Guys mixed with Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja. Ages 7+
BRAIDEN – WHITE NIGHT BY ELLIE MARNEY – YOUNG ADULT
Castlemaine author Ellie Marney is the cream of the crop when it comes to crime in Australian YA with her Holmes and Watson-inspired Every trilogy beginning with Every Breath. Now Marney takes a sharp turn into exploring cults in small, rural towns following the likes of Em Bailey’s The Special Ones and Lili Wilkinson’s The Boundless Sublime.
Bo Mitchell has his current life under control: he loves footy and his mates Cam and Sprog and endeavours to save the local skate park; he also knows how his world operates — home priorities first, socialising second. But when confronted with thoughts of his future after high school he has absolutely no idea who he wants to be or what he wants to do. So when new girl Rory Wild enters the picture, someone who has been raised in the secretive off-the-grid commune Eden, Bo is drawn to her utopian existence and the freedom her world provides. However he soon realises that something darker is at play and his purpose may just be beginning.
What I loved most about the Every series were the characters of Rachel and Mycroft, driven and incredibly intelligent teens you could have known yourself, and the same can be said for the characters of White Night, with a further country-raised dimensionality. The relationships, particularly that of Bo and his father as well as Bo and his friends, made White Night for me. The book is also heavy with environmental and political themes, involving young people engaging in activism. This should make any young adult reader feel empowered, especially in today’s climate where the inspirational Florida school shooting survivors make a stand for a better world. My only gripe is that White Night could have been slightly shorter as it slows down part-way through, but the relationships and mystery surrounding Eden make the read worthwhile. A solid one at that.
Kensy and Max: Breaking News by Jacqueline Harvey Random House Kids series (book 1) $16.99
The bestselling author of series like Alice Miranda and Clementine Rose has done it again! Jacqueline Harvey is back with a new awesome action packed spy series about brother and sister Kensy and Max. The series follows the two siblings, who are world travellers along with their parents and manny Fitz (male nanny). After waking up in a strange place with their parents missing, they try to uncover the truth about what’s really going on. From the beginning, Kensy and Max are exposed to strange things – the bizarre grannies and the coded messages. The whispers of adults and the ongoing secrets are enough to send Kensy and Max into ultimate spy mode. Will they locate their missing parents and find out what is really going on? This series is perfect for fans of the Friday Barnes and Lemony Snicket books Similar mysterious elements and gadgets await. Suitable for both girls and boys, than perhaps her previous female targeted series, Kensy and Max will leave you wanting more. Never fear however, I hear there may be a book 2 in the making…
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris Aussie adult fiction – Echo publishing $29.99
Based on the true story of Holocaust-survivor, Ludwig Sokolov, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a beautifully written story that highlights the tragedy of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. The narrative follows Ludwig “Lale” Sokolov, as he enters the Auschwitz camp, becomes assigned the tattooist of the camp, finds way to do business deals behind the SS backs, and find the love of his life. I absolutely loved this story, it tells an amazing story of survival and love imbedded in the tragic genocide of the Holocaust. It was interesting discovering the different roles and tasks the prisoners were forced to do. Similarly, the emphasis on survival and doing whatever means possible was written well and highlighted the tragedy that the Holocaust was.
The descriptions of the camps Auschwitz and Birkenau give a detailed image of how the camp would’ve looked, highlighting both the bleakness, as well as the small moments of pure innocence. Such as the Gypsy children playing, the giggling between two girls and humour exchanged between two men. The book perfectly balances tragedy with hope, highlighting human strength and survival when faced with unbelievable circumstances. The on-goings of the camp and the description of the hardships depicted a world without hope, but the small interaction between Lale and Gita contrasted this; bringing a sense of hope and love within the book.
Lale is ambitious, thoughtful, strong and smart. He knows numerous languages and is able to find a way to manipulate favours for himself from guards, the females from Canada (the storage of the victims’ previous belongings) and outside workers. He is his survival and the survival of the one he loves. Lale is definitely an interesting and real person. Gripping reading.