I’m back in obsessive reading mode which is always a relief. I’ve been writing without a break for years and sometimes I feel as if I’ve forgotten how to get lost in a book. The pile, much like my own writing, is a mishmash of genres.
Two Australian novels released this month are The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks and The F Team by Rawah Arja. I loved them both. Not only can I imagine readers of all ages relating to them, but I know that if I was still in the classroom, I would order a class set. Cultural diversity, family dynamics, strong girls, decent boys, grief, humour, gorgeous authentic dialogue, beautiful writing. All of that and more.
The F Team by Rawah Arja
Meet Tariq Nader, leader of ‘The Wolf Pack’ at Punchbowl High, who has been commanded by the new principal to join a football competition with his mates in order to rehabilitate the public image of their school. When the team is formed, Tariq learns there’s a major catch – half of the team is made up of white boys from Cronulla, aka enemy territory – and he must compete with their strongest player for captaincy of the team.
At school Tariq thinks he has life all figured out until he falls for a new girl called Jamila, who challenges everything he thought he knew. At home, his outspoken ways have brought him into conflict with his family. Now, with complications on all fronts, he has to dig deep to control his anger, and find what it takes to be a leader.
In confronting and often hilarious situations, Tariq’s relationships with his extended Lebanese family and his friends are tested like never before, and he comes to learn that his choices can have serious consequences.
The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks
Sorrento, Victoria, 1999. Fred’s family is a mess. Her mother died when she was six and she’s been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop’s had to go away, and Luca’s girlfriend Anika and her son have moved in. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.
Even as things feel like they’re spinning out of control for Fred, a crisis from the other side of the world comes crashing in. When a group of Kosovar-Albanian refugees are brought to a government ‘safe haven’ not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family in ways that no one could have expected.