Review: Detention by Tristan Bancks

9780143791799.jpgA thrilling, heartfelt page-turner enriched by probing social commentary, Detention is essential for opening and fuelling dialogue about the asylum seeker and refugee situation in Australia.

It is 5:28am when Detention begins, and young Afghani girl Sima and her family are pressed to the ground, among a sea of fifty other refugees,  behind the wire fence of the Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre in Midgenba. On the other side of the fence, a protestor is cutting through the fence, wire by wire, determined to free the detainees before they’re forced to return to the homelands they escaped from. Tristan Bancks — author of Two Wolves and The Fall (among others) — infuses these passing seconds with incredible heart-pounding tension, as guards patrol nearby, and her father’s final words to her before they began their breakout reverberate in her mind: “No matter what, you run.”

Finally, the fence is pried open, just enough for the human chain to squeeze through, one by one, perilously slowly, methodically and silently. Then disaster. An alarm starts blaring. Panic erupts. Guards howl. Guns are yanked from holsters. It’s absolute chaos. Sima loses her family, runs for the trees, finds herself on the grounds of a school, hiding in a toilet block as the school goes into lockdown, armed Border Force agents determinedly checking every classroom.  Which is when she is discovered by local Midgenba boy Dan, who needs to decide, quickly, whether to help Sima get away, or thrust her back into the hands of the agents hunting her.

Detention tackles big, important issues without lecturing or talking down to reader. In a world filled with toxic ideologies and divisions, Tristan Bancks shows young people have the courage to rise up and demand equality for all; to fight for human rights and ignore the banal politicising. And its breakneck pace means it’s almost impossible to put down.

ISBN: 9780143791799
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 288
Imprint: Puffin
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Publish Date: 2-Jul-2019
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: The Fall by Tristan Bancks

Fall Tristan Bancks.jpgThe Fall is the kind of thriller I would’ve loved as a child and absolutely adored as an adult. It’s a sharp, contemporary crime novel with classic genre elements, and nail-biting suspense that will keep readers on the edge of their seat. It’s a page-turning masterpiece for readers young and old.

As is the case with all great crime novels, the set-up is simple. In the middle of the night, Sam — son of irascible crime reporter Harry — is woken by angry voices from the apartment above. He edges to the window, to check the scene above, and sees a body fall from the sixth-floor balcony. When Sam goes to wake his father, he discovers Harry is gone. And when Sam gets downstairs, the body has vanished.  But Sam knows what he saw — and worse for him, somebody else knows what he witnessed. Someone who wants Sam silenced at any cost.

The Fall is a pulse-pounding thriller with the heart and soul so often missing from its contemporaries. The strained relationship between Sam and Harry — and indeed Sam and his mother — is truly evocative, and adds a powerful emotional layer to proceedings; but never at the expense of the plot’s raw pace, which rips along phenomenally.

Tristan Bancks has concocted a thriller that has everything you could ask for – a twisty plot, memorable characters, and plenty of action. If there’s a child in your life who has been glancing at the line of Michael Connelly novels on your shelf, or skimming through your Raymond Chandler collection, put a copy of The Fall in their hands.

ISBN: 9780143783053
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288
Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s Books
Publisher: Random House Australia
Publish Date: 29-May-2017
Country of Publication: Australia

 

Review: Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

9781406363135Loosely based on Kate DiCamillo’s own childhood,Raymie Nightingale tells the story of ten-year-old Raymie Clarke and her plan to get her father to come back home after he eloped with a dental hygienist.

The year: 1975. The place: Florida. Feeling alone and adrift, Raymie is determined to learn how to twirl a baton in order to win the title of ‘Miss Central Florida Tire 1975.’ She thinks, by winning the title, her photograph will be in the newspaper and be seen by her father, which’ll make him so proud he’ll want to return home, and life will resume as before. Also aspiring to win the competition are two girls, Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski, both of whom have also lost parents and are seeking ways to move on with their lives. And while this triumvirate start off as competitors, their particular quirky personalities soon merge into friendship, worthy of tagging as the “three Rancheros” by Louisiana. Together they get into all kinds of mischief – but never just for mischiefs sake. Their series of adventures are a consequence of their combined determination to help each other through the challenges they face as individuals, which can only be overcome together.

DiCamillo’s simple prose is so elegant and delightful, offering a meditation on life, death, and friendship in such a way that will enthral younger readers, and adults alike. Raymie Nightingale is unquestionably my favourite children’s novel of the year and deserves mass accolades and designation as a modern classic. It really is that good, and earns an everlasting spot in your child’s bookshelf – or yours!

But don’t just take my word for it…

ISBN: 9781406363135
Format: Hardback (197mm x 140mm x mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: Walker Books Ltd
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
Publish Date: 12-Apr-2016
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Secret Hero Society – Study Hall of Justice by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen

9781760276539.jpgThe cynic in me wanted to view Derek Fridolfs’ and Dustin Nguyen’s Secret Hero Society: Study Hall of Justice as a perfunctory vehicle to spotlight younger versions of DC comics heroes and villains ahead of the release of the blockbuster film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But I’m a sucker for the DC’s ‘trinity’ – Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman – and I’m a long-time admirer of Dustin Nguyen’s art. So despite my hesitations, I pulled a copy from the shelf and dived in… and I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was delighted. This is a book that’ll have both adults and kids in stitches, scouring pages for inside jokes and references, and enraptured by the core mystery. In other words, it’s a winner.

Young Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent and Diana Prince form their own Junior Detective Agency in the halls of Ducard Academy in Gotham City when they realise there’s more to their new boarding school for ‘gifted’ children than meets the eye. They’re an oddball triumvirate, each displaying the divisive characteristics that’ve been portrayed in the comics for decades. Together, they unravel the mystery behind the school’s secret headmaster, overcoming the villainous obstacles in their way including fellow students Lex Luthor, Harley Quinn and the Joker, as well as dastardly school staff including General Zod, Hugo Strange, Vandal Savage, and so forth.

Secret Hero Society: Study Hall of Justice is layered with references that young fans and older will enjoy – but every element is explicated well enough to ensure the layman won’t be left lost and confused. This is fundamentally a story about friendship – how different personalities, regardless of upbringing, can be moulded into an effective team – with a good amount of super-heroics thrown in. It’s told through traditional comic book pages, journal entries, pamphlets, text messages, and report cards, and the variation enhances the tale’s readability. The only flaw I identified was the novel’s pacing. The story takes its time to get going – it’s not plodding, but necessarily measured in order to establish the characters and their world – but in contrast the climax feels rushed, like suddenly the storytellers realised they were running out of pages. It’s not a major issue, and it certainly doesn’t take away from the novel’s successes, but it’s a noticeable stumble.

This is the kind of book I wish had been around when I was a kid. It’s fun and quirky, but doesn’t talk down to readers. I’d love to see further adventures in this universe, and there’s certainly a ton more characters to explore from the DC Universe.

ISBN: 9781760276539
Format: Paperback
Pages: 176
Imprint: Scholastic Australia
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Publish Date: 1-Feb-2016
Country of Publication: Australia