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 2018’s very best New Zealand books for young adults.
Ash Arising, by Mandy Hager
Hager’s writing is masterful. She keeps the tension taut throughout, controlling the chaos of explosions, gunshots, kidnappings and more. She makes her moral points and she kicks the world’s arse for letting things get so bad. You can’t help but watch in awe. Probably best for 13+, unless you think your preteen can cope with the total disintegration of the status quo.
By Mandy Hager
Published by Penguin
Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas, by Ant Sang and Michael Bennett
Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas is a daring sci-fi adventure, set in a dystopian future in which a breakthrough in medical science has caused the erosion of civilisation as we know it. Eco-activist Helen is kidnapped by a mysterious group known as the Go-Go Ninjas, who have travelled back in time from the year 2355 to interrogate her about the creation of the ‘Peace Balls’ – giant floating devices that enslave and control people’s minds. Unfortunately, Helen knows nothing about them, but she may still have invaluable knowledge from the past that might hold the key to saving the future.
In Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas, Sang tackles an action-packed adventure story in bold full-colour, and it makes for a captivating read. For age 12+, as it is quite violent, with challenging themes.
Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas
By Ant Sang and Michael Bennett
Published by Penguin
Monsters of Virtue, by L J. Ritchie
Did you know that New Zealand very nearly passed a law legalising the sterilisation of ‘mental defectives’ in the late 1920s, just prior to the Great Depression? L. J. Ritchie takes this as a jumping-off point for his YA novel, Monsters of Virtue, and constructs a world in which the most perfect children are placed into a special school in a new town named Galtonia. The world he depicts is utterly believable and devastating, and the way in which his teens wrestle with the philosophy they foisted on themselves makes for a tense, interesting read. For 14–19 year olds.
Monsters of Virtue
By L J. Ritchie
Published by Escalator Press
Slice of Heaven, by Des O’Leary
This novel, based in a fictional high school in South Auckland, is a stunningly well-wrought story about the lives of a multi-cultural group of boys who are thrown together, while on detention, to form a softball team. It tells the stories behind often misrepresented groups of people, most of whom have come to New Zealand recently for a better life. The prose is crisp and well-edited, and O’Leary is definitely a contender for Best First Book in next year’s Book Awards.
Slice of Heaven
By Des O’Leary
Published by Mākaro Press
Legacy, by Whiti Hereaka
This book starts with a typical teenage boy freaking out about whether the girl he likes is into him, but quickly becomes something entirely different, as he time-travels after an accident to find himself taking his great-grandfather’s footsteps in WW1. Because his mother has been studying the great-grandfather’s archives, he knows enough about what is meant to happen to get by, but how is he going to get home? A tense and interesting read, telling the story of the Māori battalion in WW1, within the context of time-travel.
By Whiti Hereaka
Published by Huia Publishers
Rain Fall, by Ella West
The West Coast often arises in New Zealand’s literary narrative as wild and full of wild people. No book that I have read previously has captured my coast. With rain, puddles, and the smell of drying wool – taking your chance and biking to the shops, just to get caught in it again on the way home.
Read this book if you know the Coast, if you want a read you can sink into, with a character who pulls her own weight and loves the place she lives. This is a great read for 12+. (Sarah)
By Ella West
Published by Allen & Unwin
The Empress of Timbra, by Karen Healey and Robyn Fleming
Empress of Timbra is book one in the Hidden Histories e-book series. This book is immersive and enchanting. The world-building is on par with stories like The Princess Bride and Harry Potter. If you have a teen in your life who needs another world to visit, with magic, horned horses, pirates, and castles, give them The Empress of Timbra and watch them disappear within the book for weeks.
The Empress of Timbra
By Karen Healey and Robyn Fleming