2017 Christmas Shopping List: Best YA Books

Do you want to be sure you’re getting top-shelf books for your favourite people this Christmas – or on any gift-giving occasion? We are making it easy for you! Here is our selection of the very best New Zealand books of 2017 for teens.

The Severed Land

By Maurice Gee

Published by Penguin Random House NZ

RRP $19.99

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The Severed Land refers to a world split through by ‘the wall’. No heraldic capitalisation, just ‘the wall’. An invisible rupture across the landscape separating the land ruled by the despotic Five Families – Despiner, Morisette, Krohn, Carp and Dight – and the land north of the wall, where small numbers of free folk live in villages. But now the wall is failing, and it’s up to Fliss, a former slave, to partner with the arrogant son of a noble house to save it.

This is a heartbreaking work of staggering Gee-nius. There are moments of rollicking road adventure. There’s a race of woodland folk whose origins are shrouded in mystery and upon whom the future freedom of the known world rests. There’s an affable rogue, à la Jimmy Jaspers, in the form of Mutch (who even has pals who say things like ‘dogshit!’). And then there’s Fliss, the girl with a storied past, who drives the narrative.

There are weighty themes of colonisation, slavery, loss, and destiny here, and characters who will stay with you. There’s hope and despair and the possibility of another story set in this world. Get in on the ground floor and read it this summer.

Read a review here, by Briar Lawry.

Because Everything Is Right but Everything Is Wrong

By Erin Donohue

Published by Escalator Press

RRP $24.99

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21-year-old Donohue has written a novel that is all character, all emotion and completely human.

Based on her own experiences with mental illness at high school, Donohue tells an authentic tale of depression and anxiety, from trying to ignore it, attempting to cope with it, spiralling out and finally moving into treatment and recovery.

Caleb is in his last year of school and we are so far inside the narrator’s head with him it’s impossible not to empathise and feel compassion towards anyone suffering in the way he is. These ideas of understanding mental illness are treated beautifully and never feel cliché, preachy or laboured, with each character playing a crucial role in helping to tell Caleb’s story. His family and friends become periphery characters as he distances himself more and more. Caleb’s story is movingly and poetically told. We, like everyone else in the novel, just want him to be okay.

Read the Review, by Saradha Koirala

That Stubborn Seed of Hope

By Brian Falkner

Published by Penguin Random House NZ

RRP $24.00

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It’s an unusual thing, the teen collection of short stories. It is definitely only going to happen once you have enough currency as an author, as Brian most certainly does. These stories are heartbreaking, inspirational, and eye-opening. You view the world as a bully, a brother and sister, a dementia sufferer and a person living in the world which is in the grip of a deadly pandemic. Most of all, you view the world as the person telling the story.

Perfect for the bedtime reader – Sarah would recommend it for age 13+, or mature younger readers.

Air Born

By J. L. Pawley

Eunoia Publishing Limited

RRP $20.00

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The title says it all. Tyler Owen is in the air, skydiving solo for the first time, when his wings burst from his back. He plunges spectacularly to the ground, only to wake up in hospital, media surrounding him. He escapes, and is hunted by both fanatic religious and geneticists. He is not alone in his fate, and a band of flying teens convene. Tyler becomes Hawk, Victoria becomes Kestrel, we have Miguel, Tui, Raven and Owl.

Why has this happened to them? Who is responsible? And how are they going to escape alive? Great tension, great, diverse characters and voices, realistic setting. This is alternate universe fantasy – Sarah would recommend it for age 12+.

Zeustian Logic

By Sabrina Malcolm

Gecko Press

RRP $24.99

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Tuttle is an astronomy nut (not an astrology nut – though he admits the stories are pretty cool): his first word was Tuttle, so though his given name is Duncan, he has never been known by anything else. His dad is missing in action on Mt Everest, having disappeared under suspicious circumstances. He was leading a climb, and it appears from reports that he deliberately left a paying customer behind when descending a mountain in terrible conditions.

Tuttle is holding the home fort. While his mum is around, she isn’t really: Tuttle is clothing, feeding, and parenting his seven-year-old brother Fen. His mum is still in an incapacitated state of grief, nine months after his father disappeared. Tuttle is frustrated and beginning to get angry, and this is making him irrational. He talks to a tabloid-type reporter about his father, then realises what he has done and starts to unravel – with a bit of help from our antihero, next-door neighbour and car enthusiast (boy-racer) Boyd.

Read the Review, by Sarah Forster

Read the Interview between Craig Gamble & Sabrina Malcolm