In a time where social media and technology surrounds us, reading is still one of the best ways to switch off and feel grounded and relaxed again. Young adult fiction is especially perfect for a heart-warming read. Australian YA in particular has some amazingly relatable, real, raw, and feel-good stories that can be enjoyed by both teenagers and adults alike. So here is a list of some Australian YA books to read.
This is a realistic, insightful, beautiful novel which delves into the life of Peta Lyre – a sixteen year old living on the spectrum. When Peta follows her therapist’s rules for ‘normal’ behaviour, she can just about fit in with her peers. But enter Sam, the new girl, and Peta’s carefully structured routine and therapy techniques go out the window. Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal is full of believable characters, relationships and situations as we follow along on Peta’s journey to finding strength to be herself in a world that isn’t made for her.
Making Friends with Alice Dyson is a heartwarming contemporary romance about growing up, growing apart and growing close to somebody unexpected. The novel focuses on the power of friendship and the trust it takes to let somebody see the real you. It’s an intimate and enchanting look into the awkward and authentic life of Alice as she goes through her last year of high school. Alice is very much on the shy side, and all she wants to do is concentrate on her school work, but there are other plans for her. The school troublemaker, Teddy Taualai, suddenly wants to become friends with her, and we begin to see Alice finally open up.
In this novel we follow Anna Chiu’s life living with traditional Chinese-Australian parents, including her mum who is mentally ill. While her mum stays in bed, Anna feels pressured to work towards perfect grades in high school, all while looking after her brother and sister, as well as helping out at her dad’s restaurant. When she meets Rory, the new delivery boy, Anna feels like she could be a normal teenager. But sadly her mum’s condition worsens and Anna and her family are forced to question everything they understand about themselves and each other in order to confront the uncomfortable truth of mental illness and depression. This is a vulnerable, raw story that portrays how mental illness intersects with Asian identity, culture and values, while also covering heart-warming topics of hope, love, acceptance, and dumplings of course.
It Sounded Better in my Head portrays Natalie, a shy, sheltered teenager in the limbo between school and university and showcases the awkwardness of first love, house parties and body image. Natalie’s parents are in the midst of an all too civil divorce and Natalie’s two best friends started dating, leaving her feeling confused and left out. An unexpected romance then shows up in Natalie’s life, forcing her to confront her insecurities head on. This book delves into the very real, relatable and confusing inner workings of a teenage girl, and specifically delves into acne scarring and the insecurities it creates. It’s a nostalgic, charming read, with Natalie’s inner thoughts being some of the best, most endearing moments of the novel.
A short yet wonderful read about body positivity, friendship and beauty pageants, all set in the lazy summer holidays. Sixteen year old Maisie Martin has always been self-conscious of her plus-sized body, especially during the summer by the beach with friends and family. This summer has been the hardest for Maisie. Her dad is is AWOL during their Christmas beach trip, her beauty-queen sister has decided to join their trip, shaking Maisie’s confidence even more, and her best friend starts dating the boy Maisie has loved since childhood. Maisie is sick of never wanting to be seen. She’s sick of sitting on the sand, in her jeans and t-shirt, while others frolick around in their swimmers. She wants to love her body, which is why she enters herself in a beauty pageant. What I like About Me is a light read with substance and important messages. The novel is realistic and relatable and includes a wide variety of complex characters with different backgrounds.
Please Don’t Hug me depicts the life of Erin, who is on the cusp of adulthood and also on the autism spectrum. The novel highlights the complexities of finding out and accepting who you are and realising what is important to you. Erin is looking forward to schoolies, and spending the summer after high school working at the Surf Shack and driving wherever she pleases. But her plans begin to go astray when she looses her job and fails her driving test. She doesn’t know why things are going so wonky, but when she starts writing letters to her brother, who left almost a year ago, she finally begins to make sense of things. Told with humour, warmth and compassion, the story captures how difficult it is to be a teenager at the end of high school, dealing with the changes and uncertainties that every teenager goes through, as well as the specific challenges of being on the autism spectrum. Erin’s voice is authentic and unapologetic, highlighting that it is OK to be completely yourself.
Seventeen year old Stella and her family find themselves living in a caravan park, thanks to her father’s gambling addiction. While trying to adjust to her new living situation (and trying to hide it from her friends), Stella receives a letter from her birth mother. Not only does she have to deal with the chaos of her dad’s family, she now has to confront the secrets and past of her ‘other’ family. This novel is a big-hearted story about family, friendship and the meaning of home. The novel covers tragedy and heartbreak while remaining light and comedic at times.