Melina Marchetta

27th July 2015: Celebrating two new Aussie YA voices

I wish I had more time to talk about other people’s work. So much great stuff has come out in Australia this year. Two new writers in particular have crossed my path.

In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker will be launched this Thursday at Kinokuniya in Sydney at 6pm (RSVP 92627996 ) As I said in my blurb  “One of the most original novels I’ve read for a long time.”

It’s powerful, has a great premise and a strong voice. (And what a great cover)

Synopsis: Three years ago, Alice’s identical twin sister took a gun to school and killed seven innocent kids; now Alice wears the face of a monster. It’s a small town and no one can stand to even look at her. But when Alice encounters her sister on a deserted highway, ‘bad’ is just the beginning. Alice soon finds herself trapped in a dangerous new reality: a broken world that’s filled with the nightmares of everyone in the community.

Here, with old secrets finally coming together, Alice is forced to confront the true impact of everything that happened that day in the schoolyard … including her hidden connection to the boy who hates her most.


‘I know what you are,’ he whispered, just loud enough for me to hear. His voice was stripped back to the bare essentials of hate and something else, something raw.

I held my breath… and I realised that I was waiting for him to tell me, because I honestly didn’t know.

All I could think was, What? What am I? I wished someone would give me an answer, instead of Dr Ben crapping on about me being ‘my own person’ and everyone from town only ever seeing a monster in me. And what was I now? What was I now that I was in the body of some twisted, dreamt-up version of you?

I was so desperate for any kind of answer that I was prepared to let Lux tell me. Prepared to let anyone tell me. But he didn’t. He didn’t say another word. He just sat there, letting me suffer.

In the three years after what you did I was pretty careful not to hate anybody. Hate wasn’t a good sign when you were in my particular situation. Strong emotions were to be carefully avoided, et cetera. But in that moment I made an exception. For the first time since what you did I allowed myself the indulgence of truly hating someone back. And you know what? Dr Ben was right all along – hate really is a gateway drug. One little taste, and pretty soon you’re into the hard stuff. 

Next, is The Flywheel by Erin Gough.  It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, it’s got what I love in novels; great characters, relationships, a strong funny voice and a great sense of place.  I spoke on the same panel as Erin in May at the Sydney Writer’s Festival (and Laurie Halse Anderson and Barry Jonsberg).

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Delilah’s crazy life is about to get crazier. Ever since her father took off overseas, she’s been struggling to run the family’s cafe without him and survive high school. But after a misjudged crush on one of the cool girls, she’s become the school punchline as well. With all that’s on her plate she barely has time for her favourite distraction – spying on the beautiful Rosa, who dances flamenco at the tapas bar across the road.

Excerpt: The tall girl with the red skirt is Angeline. Ramon, all in black, is her brother. The other girl, her dark hair parted down the middle and fixed with a tortoiseshell comb, is their cousin. Her name is Rosa Barea, and she is the reason I stand here watching: watching and imagining, as she dances, her arms around my waist, and my hands on her hips.

Erin Gough says, “I wanted to write a book with a gay character more or less comfortable with her identity, and to give readers who may not have seen themselves represented in YA before that thrill of recognition, and the message that they matter.”