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SA Partridge

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Sally's local YA gift guide

Tis the season to get reading.

I don’t know about you, but I always buy a book or two (or three) to read over the holidays. We’re so lucky to have the most beautiful weather over the festive season, and there’s nothing better than sitting in the sunshine, or under the shade of a tree at Kirstenbosch Gardens, with a book and the entire afternoon to read.

There are some amazing young adult books out there at the moment, but before you reach for the nearest John Green or Cassandra Clare, why not give some local fiction a try? And if you’re buying for your kids, nothing beats a great story set on home turf.

Here’s a handy list of local young adult fiction available right now.

Army of the Lost The Mark

The Army of the Lost by Lily Herne
The third in the Mall Rats series, The Army of the Lost is set in a near-future South Africa decimated by a zombie apocalypse. This instalment takes place in a corrupt Johannesburg enclave and is just as thrilling as the first two.

What the back says:
“Eleven years after South Africa was ravaged by the walking dead, most of Johannesburg’s survivors are forced to scratch out a living in the filth of Sandtown, an enclave in the old Sandton City mall, ruled over by a minority of rich, self-serving bureaucrats. Tommy, a bullied fourteen-year-old Sandtownite, dreams of joining the Army of the Left, a radical organisation intent on setting the city free of the dead that lurch around its walls. But fate has other plans for him…

Betrayed by one of their closest allies and sold to the highest bidder, Lele, Ash, Ember and Ginger – the remaining Mall Rats – find themselves sucked into the dark heart of Jozi’s twisted political system. While Ash is forced to face his traumatic past and Ginger struggles to regain his sanity, Lele goes head to head against Jozi’s most powerful manipulator – a man who has sinister plans for her. Meanwhile, left for dead on the outskirts of Jozi, Saint begins her own journey. A journey that she hopes will provide the answers to all of the Mall Rats’ unanswered questions…”

Sally rating: 4 stars

The Mark by Edyth Bulbring
Edyth is paving the way for other local writers to follow. Her incredible April May series is already making waves overseas. The Mark is her latest offering.

What the back says:
“In the future, the world has flipped. Ravaged by the Conflagration, this is a harsh world where the relentless sun beats down, people’s lives are run by a heartless elite and law is enforced by a brutal brigade. A mark at the base of the spine controls each person’s destiny. The Machine decides what work you will do and who your life partner will be.

In this world, everyone must make their contribution. Some more than others.

Juliet Seven – “Ettie” – will soon turn 15 and her life as a drudge will begin, her fate-mate mate will be chosen. Like everyone else, her future is marked by the numbers on her spine. But Ettie decides to challenge her destiny. And in so doing, she fulfils the prophecy that was spoken of before she even existed.”

Dreaming of light Devilskein

Dreaming of Light by Jayne Bauling
Dreaming of Light has been raking in the awards, including gold at last year’s Sanlam Youth Prize Awards and being listed on the prestigious IBBY Honour Roll.

What the back says:
“Regile is a zama-zama working illegally in an abandoned mine near Barberton. Being eighteen, Regile has moved up the ranks and is now paid a salary to keep the other child workers in line.

Towards the end of a three-month stint underground, a fourteen-year-old boy from Mozambique, Taiba, starts asking questions about their rescue.

Taiba constantly reaffirms his belief that they will be saved: by the police, by the private security firms that guard the mines, or maybe even by the mythical Spike Maphosa. Regile knows that such hope is dangerous.”

Watch the trailer.

Devilskein and Dearlove by Alex Smith
This is my ultimate favourite book of 2014. It’s gorgeously fantastical and lyrical and has already made its way on to the Carnegie Medal longlist.

What the back says:
“When thirteen-year-old Erin Dearlove has to move in with her aunt on Cape Town’s bustling Long Street, she struggles to adapt to her new life, harbouring a dark secret. But her friendship with their upstairs neighbour, Mr Devilskein, soon helps her to adjust. Like Erin, Mr Devilskein has something to hide: he is the keeper of six mysterious doors. He entrusts Erin with the key for one of these doors, and she discovers that they lead to infinite magical worlds. In wonder she explores an underwater paradise, the lost works of William Shakespeare, and a beautiful Chinese garden. During her adventures she meets a prisoner names Julius Monk, but Julius is not all he appears to be. The captive and his Book of Dooms prove dangerously enticing, and soon it is up to Erin to save the lives of those she’s grown to love.”

Sally rating: 5 stars

Watch the trailer.

Chain alive

Chain Reaction by Adeline Radloff
I loved Adeline Radloff’s action-packed super hero story, Side Kick. This is her latest novel, which bagged a silver Sanlam Youth Prize.

What the back says:
Chain Reaction tells of the experiences of bully Stephanie Adolphus; the beautiful Krystle Thomas whose home life holds a shameful secret; Lisakhanya, a girl from the township; Krystle’s sister who is trying to make any sense of her life; Dillan, Stephanie’s bullied little brother; and Ben who has an overbearing abusive stepfather.

Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view. In the end, one character’s decision to do something differently, impacts on all the character’s lives. It deals with the issues of bullying, the notion that true beauty is a blessing and not a curse, the complexities of young love, and fear of abuse.

Alive Again by Andre Eva Bosch
This intriguing title won a Gold Sanlam Youth Prize earlier this month.

What the back says:
“The highly intelligent and very beautiful Nandile Dube hopes to be an “honest human rights lawyer to make sure helpless people get treated fairly and with respect”. Her mother supports Nandi’s dream and works double shifts to pay Nandi’s school fees. Mrs Dube constantly encourages Nandi to chase her dream. Nandi’s father, however, thinks education is wasted on a girl.”

sharp_edges beastkeeper

Sharp Edges by S.A. Partridge
My fourth book for young adults was released last year. It received the MER Prize for Best Youth Novel at the Media 24 Literary Awards.

What the back says:
Six friends attend a music festival in the Cederberg. Only five come back. For her seventeenth birthday Demi Crowley invites her five closest friends to join her at a music festival for a party to end all parties. But what was supposed to be the night of their lives soon becomes a nightmare none of them will ever forget.

Sharp Edges is a topsy-turvy tale of love, loss and friendship that will stay with you long after the final page has been turned, and leaves you questioning what you really know about your friends.”

Watch the trailer.

Coming soon:

If you can wait a month or two, I highly recommend getting Cat Hellisen’s new book, Beastkeeper. It’s a beautiful retelling of Beauty and the Beast that’s already attracting rave reviews, and it’s not even out yet!

What the back says:
“Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.”

Sally rating: 5 stars