Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Alaska by Sue Saliba

mia's heart made a sound that no one heard except for mia
late one night when she woke from dreams into darkness.
ethan was asleep beside her, and em was a forest away.
outside it was night and dark and alaska.
the sky was upside down.
When Mia follows her sister halfway across the world to Alaska, she discovers that love can be found in the most unexpected and beautiful of places. But can Mia find the courage to follow her heart in Alaska? And what if the one you love is not all that you wish them to be?
A lyrical new novel from the winner of the 2009 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction with something in the world called love.
The image of ALASKA doesn't do the physical book justice. It's stunning in the flesh ~ a shimmery bronze/gold colour that catches the light. <3

alaska is a gorgeous, gorgeous book. it's breathless and aching and it completely captures that swirl of coming-of-age emotions. the fear and hope and vulnerability we all feel. the fleeting moments of deep happiness pitched against the uncertainties of the world and your place in it.

it's a contemp but written in such a lyrical way that it occasionally has an other-worldy vibe: it's whimsical. sue saliba's prose is stunning ~ she catches sentiments in the most aching of ways. the story washes over you, pulls you in, makes you gasp and sigh.

it was as if she was on the cusp of herself, her edges, and she might soon fall in. (p 172)

it's not written traditionally. there are no capital letters. there's snippets of scenes and snatches of dialogue. the narrative flows along, mostly linear, but at times swirling back through time.

i loved, adored and ached for mia. looking at the world through her eyes was stunning. she's carving out her place in the world: 

whether he (ethan) knew it or not, she was casting him in a role, building a story around him, creating a tone. it was what she'd done for herself: mia, the devoted sister of em; mia, the emotional daughter of her alcoholic mother. what particular places she inhabited. what awful territory she guarded. (p16)

plot-wise i will not spoil it for you ~ but mia stumbles across things she cannot ignore. things that stir her and shape her and give her courage to find what she believes in: 

suddenly mia wanted to stop, to reverse things. to walk back to the door and the time that she had just slipped through it, that moment. but she couldn't. something else was saying go, go deeper into what is here. right here with you. 
she paused. she thought of the night-time sky. it was beautiful and terrifying all at once, seductive like standing on the edge of a truth where everything thought impossible was instantly and completely available. she moved forward. (p 61)

mia is brave and resilient. she's running away from melbourne and her past but also trying to come to terms with it. she falls in love with ethan, in his twenties, who feels like an extension of herself, but he is also evasive and maybe not at all who she needs him to be.

there they lay, hours later, on the floor not far from the table but amongst blankets and cushion that ethan had dragged from the nearby couch. mia turned her head to look through the long window. she saw the road she had travelled along in the distance. she saw ice against the ground and the sunlight shining on it and she smiled at the strange combination of things. how just at that moment, as she looked out, with the comfort of ethan beside her, she could accept the unlikeliness of the world. (p 76)
i also keenly felt the relationship between mia and her mum. all that it was and is and all that mia wished it to be. the issue of her mum's illness was captured so deftly. in so few words there are so many shades of grey. 

the setting of alaska is breathtaking. the forest is alive, it feels magical. it's right at the heartbeat of the novel.

you can't have beauty without danger. mia's words had sprung from somewhere covered over in her, whispered alive by the forest. you can't have life and absolute safety. (p92)

i could quote this entire book. it's sentiments, the language. this is a book with a soul. one more passage i loved for it's simplicity and it's heartbeat and for that sense of life and hope and the future and everything in between:

that night she lay beside ethan,
mia's heart made a soundthat no one else heard. 
she was here in alaska, with ethan, with em. safe from certain parts of the world and certain parts of herself.
 here - if she chose - was a certain story.
or she could listen to another way. 
outside it was night and dark and the sky was upside down. the forest called to her. why had she come? what was it that a world so remote had to tell her. 
it wasn't hard to know. not now. (p 182)

recommended: books like alaska make me fiercely proud of the aussie authors who write for our teens. this book is brave and true and full of heart and soul.

it's for fans of Jaclyn Moriarty's whimsical and soulful characters (think elizabeth clarry).

it's for fans of sonya hartnett's astounding prose and mystical stories.

it's for fans of verse novels ~ with it's lilting and lyrical prose. 

i completely loved alaska

Alaska's Aussie release date is June 27 :D

click on image to see in detail <3

the full jacket spread is gorgeous. love how even the barcode is incorporated into the tree stump. i think we'll be seeing this cover nominated for design awards <3

thank you to Penguin Australia for this review copy


  1. I always love how you feature different books I've never heard of before! A lot of the Aussie YA books you review sound fabulous and really unique, I wish more of them would get published internationally. If I ever head to Australia I will be sure to stock up, LOL :D

  2. This one seems lovely! I've added it to my wishlist and I hope it becomes available internationally. Wonderful review, Nomes. What you felt for the book really shines forth in the things that you said.

  3. I would love to get this book- to read it and stare the cover forever. The story sounds wonderful. I really really hope this one's coming out internationally soon (just like everyone else here)! :)

  4. Yes - my God, the cover is GORGEOUS. Even more so in person. I love the little details in the artwork, the lines going through the title font like wood, and the way it looks on the shelf! Wow.

    I was wondering whether the no-capital-letters thing was meant to mean something. I read a couple pages and it sounds good. Can't wait to delve into this one! It's fairly short so I probably will soon. :P

  5. I adore this review Nomes! <3
    And Alaska is now definitely added to the top of my TBR pile, I can't not read it after the praise you just gave.

    P.S. That cover makes me want to buy enough copies that I can just use the jackets as wallpaper and stare at the pretty all day long.

  6. This book sounds awesome, and that cover is gorgeous.
    I love the idea of this book. :) thanks for sharing, I hadn't heard of it before but it has gone to the must have list-

  7. Sounds incredibly good, and I adore the cover!

  8. I just read this the other day and was totally taken aback by it. I didn't expect something so gorgeous! Great review!

  9. Nomes you are no good for my book budget. Love this review :)

  10. The cover is gorgeous! Alaska seems like the perfect book in terms of plot, characters and writing. Another book to add to my TBR!

  11. I just adore this cover so much.
    I bought her other book 'something in the world called love' the other week.
    I love books with a whimsical/poetic feel to them they make me look at the world as a more beautiful place e.g 'The sky is everywhere'
    Ahh you've gotten me all excited, I really want this book now. i'm going to be searching through all the book shops now.
    Ahh the cover is so pretty (just though i would mention it again)
    - abbeys bookshelf

  12. Glorious review Nomes, I havent't heard of Sue Saliba or Alaska but your review makes me want to rush out and grab a copy!

  13. Another great example of the wonderful talent of Aussie authors. The quotes you chose really illuminated this book and as always has me drooling. Marvelous review and adding this to all the other Aussie books I will be waiting patiently to obtain.

  14. This book looks so pretty. I don't know why, but I'm bowled over by the way they put the barcode in that tree stump. I am in love with this. More books should have barcodes designed around like this.

  15. Stunning review Nomes. You always make me feel frantic with the need to possess.

    Thanks for the quotes. I've never read a verse novel. Now I can't wait to try one.

  16. It sounds freaking wonderful! Fantastic review as always hun :)

  17. I, too and bowled over by the way they incorporated the barcode into the stump. Ingenious! It doesn't even look like a barcode anymore. More cover designers need to do this. I can just imagine the bronze color - it's stunning in the image but with the shimmer? I am in love with everything: the monotone color scheme, the wood grain font of the title, the simple, color block animals and the handwritten font used for the author's name. This is going to the TBR for the cover alone. Your review doesn't hurt either. :) Seriously, it sounds absolutely breathtaking. Thanks again for the review. :D

  18. What a gorgeous review. This book sounds incredible.

  19. I loved Alaska! I'm going to review it now!
    Thanks- it was rather cold- but I didn't mind!
    And thank you again! I'm so glad you liked the review! That's ok! ( :


Thanks for the commenty love :)