Friday, September 2, 2011

Aussie YA: older main characters (Kirsty Eagar Week)

One of the things I LOVED about Kirsty Eagar's Raw Blue is that the characters are older than the average YA book. Carly is 19, graduated high school and dropped out of uni. Ryan (gosh-I-love-him) is 27.

As an older reader of YA I am drawn to the older end of the YA spectrum. I am a huge advocate for an emerging New Adult market (which YA publishers are traditionally not keen on)

In my cosy bubble of readerly-writerly friends (who have mostly finished high school) I see the same craving for coming-of-age stories that feature out-of-school-aged characters.

The YA scene has always had it's own little groove going on down here in Australia and, surprisingly, it is not at all hard to find Aussie YA books that slice right into the New Adult market.

Today ~ I am featuring just a handful of Aussie YA novels which feature older protagonists and are riding the older YA vibe. These are [only] contemporary YA (often YA fantasy and other genres have an older vibe anyway, due to being set in entirely different worlds)

I hope you can find a good Aussie YA recommendations in here :)

[all links go to goodreads for more info]

Good Oil. While Amelia (sweet, fiesty, yearning Amelia) is only 15, Chris is a gorgeous 21 year old. Half the book is in his POV ~ and it's brilliant ~ some 21 year old male angst, he yearns for different things, has a past teen-perspective and brilliantly captures those days of wanting more of the world and feeling at odds with how to get there.

This is in my top fave YA books of all time
Finding Grace by Allyssa Brugman. Oh how I truly love this gorgeous book. Rachel has graduated high school, is working, left home and starting uni. It's a quirky, mesmerising and unexpectedly emotional read about one girl facing the beginning of life out in the real world.

One of my long time favourite reads

When You Wake and find Me Gone by Maureen McCarthy
Kit is 20 years old, loving uni until she has an unexpected trip to Ireland... So much fun, travelling to Ireland and there's some awesome IRA conflict and a (cute) Irish boy.

 I devoured this the first time I read it <3 ~ and was stoked to find a copy at my second hand book shop a few years ago. Planning a re-read [soon]

[Maureen McCarthy also has other books which easily slide into an older YA scene]
Fireflies by Jonathan Harlen
I love this book. Funny and sexy (!) and a little bit crazy. Brilliant male POV set in Sydney ~ John Berryman has left school, writes radio comedy and irreverently pursues Johanna ~ daughter of the American Ambaddassor.

 It is also one of my all-time faves. I am crazily nostalgic for it.

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
When I first heard of this stand-alone companion novel to Saving Francesca I was insanely excited. Visiting the gang but 5 years in the future? Where they are all 21? = Perfection. I LOVE this idea. And of course, half the story here also belongs to Georgie (in her 40's). While The Piper's Son does not see to fall into the constraints of traditional YA it is booming in the YA market down here (nominated for many YA awards)

Another book contending for a spot in my top ten all-time faves :)

I am The Messenger by Markus Zusak
Haha, this book is truly funny and exceptionally noteworthy. Ed and his gang of mates are all finished school and in various states of uni/work/hanging out-ness. Perfectly captures that feeling of being "out in the real world" and still trying to figure out what you're meant to be doing in it.

This book also has one of my fave first chapters. Ever. [I also loan my copy out to non-YA-reading adults all the time.]

Circles of Stone by Pamela Rushby
Lea (20 years old) takes a year break from university to back-pack with friends. While in Scotland, she is at the discovery of a 2000 year old body in a peat bog O.o. I LOVE bog stories, and this one is not all-the-way contemporary as their is a time travelly-vibe going on. Still ~ made of win.

The Byron Journals by Daniel DuCrou
Matthew and his mates are in their first year out of high school ~ partying at Byron Bay in a gap year scenario. This is one fantastically absorbing and beautifully written book featuring off-beat music, girls, drugs and it cracks open a world much bigger than high school.

Occasionally this was too edgy for me (in terms of sexual content, druggy-drugs) but it perfectly captured experimentation and getting caught up in something much bigger than yourself. The tension built brilliantly as well.

Give it a go if you love alternative funky beach-y music-y books, with a wild background ~ and don't mind mature (!) content. I personally am a fan of the whole gap-year scene :)

Black Painted Fingernails by Steven Herrick
Black Painted Fingernails made it through to the 2011 Gold inky's shortlist (announced yesterday). It's 2 main characters are well out of school, one a teacher in training and the other a hitchhiker finding her way. It also features the POV of the parents splattered throughout the pages. It's firmly in the new adult category.

It is not my favourite Herrick but it was still a very funky, insightful road tripping book.

Something in the World Called Love by Sue Saliba
This is a gorgeous and gentle unconventionally written book (no capital letters, interesting punctuation) that is set in Melbourne ~ Esma has moved to begin her first year at uni and is flatting with new friends ...

Poetic and unusual, I took me a little to get into it, but by then end I truly appreciated it.

Broken Glass by Adrian Stirling
Danny is 21 and the return of an old high school mate in their small country town stirs up memories from a sinister high school event. It is a highly emotive and evocative book, creating a setting for Aussie country towns similar to what Lucy Christopher did for our desert in 'Stolen'

It's gritty and tense and powerfully written, I really enjoyed this debut.

Suburban Freak Show by Julia Lawrinson
Jay is in her first year of uni ~ an not everything is going according to plan. This book is cynical and deliciously quirky in parts.

[More on Julia below]

Julia Lawrinson also wrote 'The Push' another YA novel featuring older protags (in their 20's and above) set in the 50's ~ the girls in this book are working, talking marriage, sexing it up and figuring out life in their own way.

Julia Lawrinson is a fantastic YA author with such strong cross-over appeal. Highly recommended.

I cannot have a post about older Aussie YA without mentioning  Sonya Hartnett (link to all the books I have read by her). Her YA books really defy genre-casting (they excel in the YA section, but are really for all ages). I could profile nearly her entire catalogue here but have selected three books that fit the contemporary mold the best with characters out of high school.
'All My Dangerous Friends' is a first year at uni book. Wilful Blue is set at an artists retreat (one of my long-time faves) and 'The Devil Latch' is more thriller-vibe ~ Kitten (our male protag) is early twenties, gorgeous and a smidgen mesmerising (in a sinister way). 

So ~ once I got started I realised I really could think of a lot more out-of-school-age Aussie YA protags. Especially if I decided to widen the parameters to protags who are nearly 18 but have left school ~ such as the awesome No Worries by Bill Condon (high school drop-out, working story, very good) or the dual narrative Halfway To Good  by Kirsten Murphy which has the POV of a first year out teacher, and the POV of her student in his final year of high school (LOVE Kirsten Murphy).

I think traditionally (gauging from the abundance of New Adult-type books that have been published over the years) Australian publishers run with all kinds of books for young adults and the age of the protagonist is of less concern to the actual story being told. I have LOVED growing up reading some of these books as a teen ~ reading about characters at uni or n their early twenties, written for teenagers. It perfectly bridges the gap between YA and the adult market.

I hope you've liked me chatting up some of my fave older Aussie YA books

Have you read any of these?
Got any recommendations (books I haven't mentioned)?
Would you like to see more YA books in the New Adult age bracket?

Also ~ don't forget to enter for your chance to win RAW BLUE by Kirsty Eagar ~ one of my all-time fave Aussie YA books featuring 19 year old Carly and 26 year old Ryan <3

* of course, this is not an exhaustive list, only books I have personally read that immediately came to mind.


  1. I just loved RAW BLUE. I have PIPERS SON on my TBR list...but I hadn't heard of any of the others...they all sound so good. Every time I visit your blog, I end up adding like 62 more books to the mountain that is my TBR pile. thanks!

  2. *be's baffled*

    WOW! You have read so many good books. Thanks for the recs, mate. I've added most to my TBR. All sound soooo good.

  3. Fab list! This is another post of yours that I'm bookmarking! :) I love YA books that feature older characters too.

  4. CRAP! I thought Ryan was 26, am I wrong? Let me know if I'm wrong so I can change my review...I don't have a copy of the book, lol.

    And I just added 7 books to my TBR from this post :)

  5. Great list! I'm always on the lookout for YA with slightly older characters! Love the sound of Raw Blue and Good Oil. Thanks for sharing this with us :).

  6. thanks for posting this! you have given me so mnay ideas about what to lok for next :)

  7. *adds them all on Goodreads*


  8. =D
    2 years in university and I'm already tired all of these high-school-set-up. Actually, we don't have popular kids and losers in french high schools..
    thank you for your list!
    have a nice day!

  9. Whoa Nomes. Just whoa. Now I have to go research all these titles and find out if they're available here in the US. You make me feel overwhelmed every time I visit. *hugs*

  10. Wow, I mean WOW, Nomes! I have read The Piper's Son, and it's dimly amazing, but I haven't read or even heard of so many of these! Methinks an Aussie book buying spree us I'm order.

    You seem to have a much better span of ages running through Aussie YA than we do here in the States. Please keep the excellent book recommendations coming! Many thanks!

  11. I have only read a handful of these but I agree that I love older protagonists!!

    I loved Good Oil, because Chris was going through so many things I've gone through and he is so honest about himself, even when he sucks! LOL

    And I loved that the Francesca Gang was 21 during Piper's Son! :)

  12. This list reminds me of how many awesome Aussie books I still need to read.

    Thanks Nomes for participating this week. You have done some fantastic posts :)

  13. An amazing list Nomes! Some of my fave titles on here :)

  14. Great list nomes! Some of these I've not heard of (hangs head in shame) and am off to investigate more :-)

  15. wow so many aussie books i didnt even know about!
    i am adding these to my wish list asap

  16. I have been sold on the amazng talent of Aussie writers ever since I first started reading your awesome reviews on them. I just finished listening to The Piper's son and loved it. Now I need to read Saving Francesca. I also am keeping my finger's crossed that I will win Raw Blue as I have wanted it since I read your wonderful review of it.

    Just wish I didn't have to wait so long to get my hands on the Aussie book her is the US.

  17. Awesome post..filled with awesome books! Some I have read, some i plan to read and some i now plan to now check out! Thanks Nomes, for some awesome titles for us to check out and your aweosme Raw Blue Giveaway.. did i mention your made of awesome.

    hehe :)

  18. Oh and when I came across Fireflies, I was completely joyous! We have to bring back this book! I debate we start a petition!


  19. Oh and when I came across Fireflies, I was completely joyous! We have to bring back this book! I debate we start a petition!


  20. Oh and when I came across Fireflies, I was completely joyous! We have to bring back this book! I debate we start a petition!


  21. Thanks for the recommendations! I dont understand why there is so little book aimed at 20-30 year olds! Im going to look into these :D

  22. Just placed an order with Fishpond to explore some of these great books. I too am drawn to the older end of the YA spectrum. I believe that this is the time when we all become a bit more self-aware and begin to have some true insight about ourselves. It's wonderful to read about characters making this transition and you're saying "yes! yes! I remember that!" It is hard to find most of these titles in the US. Stores here like to put books in "categories" and they usually don't have a good shelf for these. I had to order The Piper's Son online as none of the mega stores even carried it! Beautiful story and one of my all time favorites.

  23. Nomes,

    you are a darling for posting about the things you post on. If only you knew how often I use your blog to find information I need, or refer my students to another well informed and enthusiastic and inspired book blogger!

    You are such a star!
    Thank you for all that you do :)

    Tye :)


Thanks for the commenty love :)