Published by Random House Australia, Penguin Random House on July 22nd 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller
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Ebony Marshall is in her final year of high school. Five months, two weeks and four days . . . She can't wait to leave the town where she's known only as ‘Black'. Because of her name, of course. But for another reason, too.
Everyone says Black Marshall is cursed.
Three of her best friends have died in tragic accidents. After Oscar, the whispers started. Now she's used to being on her own. It's easier that way.
But when her date for the formal ends up in intensive care, something in quiet little Dainsfield starts to stir. Old secrets are revealed and terrifying new dangers emerge.
If only Black could put all the pieces together, she could work out who her real enemies are. Should she run for her life, or stay and fight?
Having read many YA thrillers, the bar is set quite high for me. Black approaches the thriller genre in a unique way, presenting a girl who is presumed to be cursed by the rest of the town. It really captures the small town feel, where rumours can spiral out of control and everyone knows your business. There’s also an uneasiness of Black’s alleged curse that is captured throughout its pages.
However, I struggled with the romance in the novel, and the love triangle that appears which seemingly detracted from the mystery. Aidan is a newcomer to the town and asks Black to the dance, and all of a sudden an insta-love occurs which happens within the first few pages. The start of the novel is heavily focused on this romance, but surprisingly gives way to revealing more about Black’s past and the events which have lead to her alienation. I enjoyed this aspect of the story much more, and didn’t see some of the twists coming.
Black is struggling with being alienated from the small town and their rumours, and the frustration that comes with everyone keeping secrets from her. I didn’t really get a good feel for any of the other characters, as they weren’t developed enough for my liking. There’s also a love triangle which I felt was unnecessary to the storyline, given how quickly the focus shifts from each love interest.
I do feel like the novel is targeted toward the younger YA audience and was prepared for this having read Risk, Fleur’s first book (Review here). The writing is quite simplistic which also leads me to this conclusion.
As a thriller, everything is a bit too easily resolved with not enough excitement. But as a quick read, Black really captures the feel of a small town gone wrong.
Review: 3 out of 5
Thanks Penguin Random House for sending me a review copy.The Road to Winter by Mark Smith
Published by Text Publishing on June 27th 2016
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Twenty years ago, John Marsden’s Tomorrow series captivated a generation of readers.
Now, Mark Smith’s The Road to Winter tells a thrilling, primal, twenty-first century story of courage and survival in the Australian wilderness.
Since a deadly virus and the violence that followed wiped out his parents and most of his community, Finn has lived alone on the rugged coast with only his loyal dog Rowdy for company.
He has stayed alive for two winters—hunting and fishing and trading food, and keeping out of sight of the Wilders, an armed and dangerous gang that controls the north, led by a ruthless man named Ramage.
But Finn’s isolation is shattered when a girl runs onto the beach. Rose is a Siley—an asylum seeker—and she has escaped from Ramage, who had enslaved her and her younger sister, Kas. Rose is desperate, sick, and needs Finn’s help. Kas is still missing somewhere out in the bush.
And Ramage wants the girls back—at any cost.
The Road to Winter is an unforgettable novel about survival, honour, friendship and love. It announces an extraordinary new talent.
Set in the small coastal town of Angowrie, The Road to Winter chronicles Finn’s experience surviving after a deadly virus which has wiped out most of the population. His trusty dog is his only companion, as he hunts, cooks and fishes for survival.
I dislike blurbs that compare books with others’, because it was nothing like Tomorrow When the War Began. It’s more of a survival story where Finn stumbles an Afghani refugee called Rose which leads him to a mission to find her sister.
Through his mission, he needs to learn to prove himself and gaining the trust of a survivor group, while also escaping the clutches of Rose’s owner. There’s lots of complications along the way, particularly with Rose’s condition and the terrain they have to cross.
The Road to Winter doesn’t have a particularly strong plot so I wasn’t sure where the story was going. It’s more of an experiential read set in a vivid Australian bush town, with rock pools, surfing, rocky terrain and small town neighbours. There’s also a distinct lack of information around the virus that hit and what happened to the town and the people, which would have been good for some back story.
The pacing was off, particularly for the romance which happens quite suddenly with barely any development. All bets are off as soon as Finn calls the girl beautiful and all of a sudden they’re kissing.
As a 16 year old boy, Finn is great at survival and hunting which makes him perfect for the setting. I wanted to know more about what made him this way other than just listening to his parents. I didn’t really know much about his family, his thoughts and motivations, outside of him just wanting to survive and to help Rose. He seemed a bit too perfect of a character.
There’s also quite a bit of detail missing, and for half of the book I was confused about why they had Willow, a little girl travelling with them. She seems to phase in and out of the story and had no significance whatsoever.
My favourite part of the book was undoubtedly Finn’s dog, who shows his loyalty in many ways. I love dog characters and kind of felt sad that his injuries weren’t really dealt with later on the book – one of many loose ends which aren’t really dealt with.
I also thought it was important how the book touched upon Afghani refugees who were being used as slaves. Even after the virus hit, they were still viewed as subpar human beings by the other survivors and it was great that Kas and Rose lead most of the story.
The end of the book is filled with emotion, but fizzles out at the ending due to the lack of a strong plot.
The Road to Winter is a snapshot of survival in a small Australian coastal town after the apocalypse. While it provides a vivid landscape and a true Aussie feel, it doesn’t delve too deep in terms of character development. With no strong plot, it’s more of an experiential read which will appeal to younger readers.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thanks Text Publishing for sending me a review copy.