#LoveOzYA Reading Recs with Oz Authors Online

Today we’re doing Reading Recs with a difference! Instead of picking one author’s brain, we spoke with the mastermind team of authors behind Oz Authors Online.

For those who haven’t yet attended one of its events, Oz Authors Online is a grassroots, community-led digital platform created in response to the cancellation of in-person book launches and panels during COVID-19 and is designed to give our community a place to celebrate Australian stories while we’re stuck indoors, and beyond.

In the past few weeks alone, OAO has hosted launches for Deep Water by Sarah Epstein, Oasis by Katya de Becerra, Taking Down Evelyn Tait by Poppy Nwosu and The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks. And there are launches aplenty coming up, including How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones, Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley and Please Don’t Hug Me by Kay Kerr. If you miss a launch, you can always catch up on YouTube or by following the links on the OAO website.

We at LoveOzYA are proud to be a partner of OAO and to better get to know the team working behind the scenes, we asked them to introduce themselves by telling us what they love about Australian YA and sharing some of thier favourite recent reads.

Wai Chim

Wai Chim is the author of YA, MG and junior fiction including Freedom Swimmer and the ‘Chook Chook’ series. The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling recently won the Indie Book Awards Book of Year in the Young Adult category. She mangles websites in her non-writing life.

What’s your role with OAO?

Chief technology wrangler.

What do you love about Australian YA?
The community and support – how everyone comes together to support each other and cheer each other on. The stories are diverse, full of truth and care; the readers are engaged, authentic and really clued into what a better world and greater society could look like and they clamour for it and the authors deliver!

Did you have a favourite Oz YA book (or books) growing up?
Being American, I didn’t discover Australian YA until I was an adult and I really think I missed out. I didn’t discover the awesomeness of Melina Marchetta and all of these wonderfully vibrant and unique Australian voices until I was much older – but I’m so glad I have now.

What are three of your favourite recent Oz YA books?
Gosh there are too too many but here are some of my faves:

Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard. This book is so important and perfect, it made me cry, broke my heart and stitched back up again.

Because of you

Because of You by Pip Harry. Another contemporary LoveOzYA and Pip is such a wonderful voice. The characters are full of heart and relentless strength.

And just to break away from the contemporaries, really loved Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein. Such an amazing edge of your seat thriller and I so deeply admire the great control of story and suspense – a real gem!

Oh also Between Us by Clare Atkins. The use of verse and prose – I just adored it so much.

To find out more about Wai and her work, visit her website: waichim.com and give her a follow on Twitter: @onewpc and Instagram: @onewpc.

Anna Whateley

Anna Whateley writes ‘own voice’ young adult fiction. Her debut novel is Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal, May 2020 with Allen & Unwin. She also has an essay in Growing Up Disabled in Australia, Feb 2021. Anna also has a PhD in literature.

What’s your role with OAO?

At first I offered technical assistance, though Wai has this all in hand! I have experience with working with children online and the ethics and safety concerns. I’m the problem thinker! I am also available to host interviews.

What do you love about Australian YA?

I love the sense of place in our young adult fiction. There’s something about the Australian land, air and people that you can’t find in fiction from other continents. Some show our sense of humour, and others the hardships unique to Australian peoples. At the moment, I love the support for #ownvoices and experimental fiction, and the spec fiction that’s just world class. I love the community of passionate readers who keep the industry afloat.

Did you have a favourite Oz YA book (or books) growing up? 

I didn’t have many at all! I was mostly given my brother’s hand-me-down books (epic fantasy) and my sister’s Judy Bloom. I’m 42 though, and I’m heartened to see the change in the industry that means my children are reading fiction that depicts their own country. It develops a sense of belonging, and that’s crucial to good mental health.

What are three of your favourite recent Oz YA books?

My favourite recent Oz YA books would have to be:

Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina. It’s an #ownvoices novel that uses form and word to star into the colonial heart of Australia. There’s a heart wrenching beauty to what is, in some ways, a murder mystery. Death and constructions of time are questioned with sensitivity to blend of Aboriginal Western cultures. One of those books that has you reach for the pencil and start underlining. 

I have to include The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim. I have a family that deals with mental health issues, and I’m often reluctant to dive in to relive that through my reading. Wai is so gentle with the reader, and I while I was deeply moved I also felt reassured. Like crying with someone giving you a hug at the same time. When you aren’t sure if you deserve love, you feel your voice shouldn’t be heard, and that’s why we need Anna to be heard. 

My last pick is I Am Out With Lanterns by Emily Gale. My reasons might be unusual. I loved the representation of a character on the spectrum that was so well written. There’s also a moment where a bi character is not hurt, rejected, ‘reformed’ or alone in her attraction. It was so unexpected and has stayed with me ever since. With the huge cast of characters covering everything from diversity, to bullying, to standing naked and not hating what you see, Emily has nailed it all. Essential reading, all three. 

To find out more about Anna and her work, visit her website: annawhateley.com and give her a follow on Twitter: @annawhateley, Instagram: @annawhateley_writer and YouTube.

Danielle Binks

Danielle Binks is a Mornington Peninsula-based author and literary agent. Her debut book The Year the Maps Changed is out with Hachette in May – a historic-fiction novel for 10-14 year-olds, set in 1999 it deals with the events of ‘Operation Safe Haven’ and Australia’s biggest humanitarian exercise to-date.

What’s your role with OAO?

Oh gosh … connector? I chatted to Wai Chim at YA Day about how unsure these next few months would be for authors, publishers, booksellers and readers – we both wanted to bring community together and spitballed what they could be/look like. But I am no tech-genius. I maybe just know lots of people and can tap them on the shoulder, introduce them to our little movement. Ideas person and social-networker? lol

What do you love about Australian YA?

How long do you have? Everything. Every little thing. But especially that it’s ours – our national youth literature. That’s got nothing of nationalistic pride or rhetoric attached to it either, it’s just the case that we have this artistic form that is designed to capture and speak-to generations of our young people. I adore that. I do this thing when I give school-talks about the #LoveOzYA movement, when I ask a huge group of kids to stick their hands up if they’ve read the Harry Potter books (surprisingly; it’s about 50/50. Many have seen the films, but not read the books – remember; for kids *nowadays* those books are old!). Then I ask them who has read Possum Magic – every hand goes up. Every single one. And I say to them – that’s magic. A room full of kids in Dubai or Washington D.C. wouldn’t have that same answer of every single hand – because it’s *ours*. And there’s something magic that from Broome to Brisbane, I ask that question and get the same response – it’s something special that connects every single Aussie kid, and that’s a small part of what it means to have a national youth literature. Collective culture, and shared story. 

Did you have a favourite Oz YA book (or books) growing up? 

Young-young me loved Paul Jennings and Morris Gleitzman. Round the Twist was very impactful – books and TV series. Ruth Park’s Playing Beatie Bow was another one – but MVP has gotta be Melina Marchetta’s Looking For Alibrandi.

What are three of your favourite recent Oz YA books?

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim – just, as warm, heartening and comforting as biting into a good dumpling! Wai is remarkably accomplished storyteller.

How to Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones; I loved this – a big book of family and feelings and *exactly* what I’ve been craving during hard times. Stunning!

Loner by Georgina Young – not out until August, but I read it in one sitting. A laugh-out-loud vicarious cringe-fest with such heart and joy … definitely for fans of Melina Marchetta and Nina Kenwood! 

To find out more about Danielle and her work, visit her website daniellebinks.com and give her a follow on Twitter: @danielle_binks Instagram: @dbinks 

A B Endacott

A B Endacott (Alice) is the Secretary of LoveOzYA and the author of six independently published fantasy novels (don’t worry, they’re not all in the one series!). Her role with OAO is more or less the same as with LoveOzYA; stepping back from a conversation and saying “here’s what I take away as our key goals, how do we make that happen?” in addition to managing the Twitter account (so if you tweet OAO, you’re speaking with her!).

What do you love about Australian YA?

Aside from the fact that it’s ‘ours’, I love the fact that Australian YA refuses to put itself into any one box. Our stories are as diverse as our population, and that diversity of story has all kinds of positive flow-on effects to the rest of our society.

Did you have a favourite Oz YA book (or books) growing up?

It’s a hard question to answer because ‘YA’ per se was only emerging as I moved through my teenage years (Melina Marchetta and Jaclyn Moriarty being real forerunners, it’s worth noting). Obviously, the Obernewtyn chronicles, and much of the rest of Carmody’s work, were a staple for young Alice, although the themes within them are quite mature despite the protagonists being young adults.

There was a lot of literature for younger readers that was distinctly Australian, though, with Australian natural and urban settings, that I think was particularly wonderful to read as it entrenched a really enduring sense of place and love of the stories that were intertwined with Australian places and voices.

What are three of your favourite recent Oz YA books?

Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard. Holden has written a gritty story that deals with some really heavy, really difficult experiences in a way that provides meaningful (hopefully) perspective-changing insight. But his prose is also so beautiful that it constantly reminds that there is beauty and good things in the world. It’s a great story that’s superbly told.

After the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson. I read this about nine months ago, long before the current events, but what struck me was how beautiful its optimism was. It’s something I’ve really tried to hold on to at the moment, and so I’m choosing to focus on all the good, constructive, and lovely behaviour we’re seeing. It’s making a bit difference.

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim. I read this in one sitting on my birthday last year – it was a great birthday. I loved that it didn’t give a perfect answer to issues that don’t necessarily have neat resolutions. The writing was fabulous, and it was also an ode to food – one of my favourite things.

Honourable mentions also go to Neverland by Margot McGovern, Oasis by Katya de Becerra and I’ve heard amazing things about The Rose Chronicles by Alysha King so I’m pretty keen to read that.

To find out more about Alice and her work, visit her website: www.abendacott.com and give her a follow on Twitter: @ajendacott and Instagram: @alicejaneboere


Shivaun Plozza

Shivaun Plozza is the award-winning author of Frankie, Tin Heart and The Boy, the Wolf, and the Stars. Her writing has been short-listed for the CBCA Book of the Year, YALSA’s Top Ten Best Young Adult Books of the Year, and the Gold Inky. She won the Davitt Award for Best Young Adult Crime Novel in 2017.

What’s your role with OAO?

I wrangle anything graphic design-y, such as the logo and Instagram feed posts.

What do you love about Australian YA?

I love the strong sense of place. We do a good job of bringing settings to life, demonstrating how where you grow up can’t help but become a part of you. I read so many Australian YA books where the setting feels as real and as a complex as a character and I love that. 

I also feel that when I pick up an Australian YA novel I get sucked into the voice easily – the characters jump off the page and are so alive with idiosyncrasies and unique rhythms and all that good stuff. Voice is always top of my ‘What Makes a Book Good’ list and I know when I pick up an Australian YA novel I’m pretty much guaranteed to find an authentic, well-constructed narrative voice.

Did you have a favourite Oz YA book (or books) growing up?

At school I remember loving Robin Klein, especially People Might Hear You and Came Back to Show You I Could Fly. Later on I fell for books like Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty and On the Jellico Road by Melina Marchetta. 

What are three of your favourite recent Oz YA books?

Only three? How cruel!

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim. This book is deeply moving and so well written. Wai writes about mental illness with sensitivity and heart—this book will make you cry but it will also fill your heart with warmth and joy and a strong sense of hope.

Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories edited by Michael Earp. What’s not to love? The whole collection is a joy, showcasing an array of stories from some of Australia’s best writers. It’s great to be able to dip in and out of genres and characters and plots—I’d love to see more short stories collections by Australian authors.

This is How We Change the Ending by Vikki Wakefield. I’m not sure how any of us mere mortals can sit in front of a computer and write again when Vikki Wakefield exists and writes books like this. Vikki’s novels are always raw and authentic, heartbreaking but with humour, too. This is a book about family and class and self-agency.

To find out more about Shivaun and her work, visit her website: shivaunplozza.com and give her a follow on Twitter: @ShivaunPlozza, and Instagram: @shivaunplozza

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