Fleur Beale’s Fierce September

Dystopian societies have featured in a lot of young adult novels lately and an increasing number of these are written by New Zealand authors.  There is Anna Mackenzie’s The Sea-wreck stranger and it’s sequel, Ebony Hill, Mandy Hager’s Blood of the Lamb series, and my favourite, Fleur Beale’s Juno of Taris and the sequel, Fierce September.

Fierce September continues the story of Juno and the other inhabitants of Taris.  The group are rescued from their dying island and are taken to Aotearoa.  The country that was once New Zealand has changed considerably in the time that they have been living on Taris; Christchurch is now home to only a few people as it is too dry to sustain life.  Juno and her people arrive in Wellington and are to stay in a refugee centre while they settle into life Outside.  Life is very different here – they have technology, different clothes and freedom from the controlling society of Taris.  But life on the Outside isn’t so peachy.  There are those that don’t welcome the people of Taris and launch a vicious hate campaign against them and only days after they arrive a pandemic hits the country.

Fierce September is a fantastic sequel and it was great to find out what happened to the people of Taris after they left their home.  Fleur Beale has created interesting characters with complex relationships and you really empathise with them.  One of the interesting extras with this book is the online content that you can also read.  There are two blogs that give different views showing how people in Aotearoa feel about the refugees from Taris.  If you haven’t read Juno of Taris you can always start with Fierce September as there’s a good synopsis of the first book at the front.

Young adult books – Wasted on the Young?


The adjective “Young” could not truly be said to apply to me – no matter how much Oil of Olay I slather on – but… the Young Adult titles have truly got me hooked. It started whilst browsing in my local book shop – there was the display of all the nominations for the NZ Post awards- The 10pm Question – hmmm that looks interesting,  Juno of Taris – oooh – I’d like to read that too.  So I dived in and began to read -perhaps I would read them all – (no of course I didn’t buy them – I work in a Library!).

Juno is a rebellious teen on an island whose inhabitants are ruled by strict codes and protocols. Her feistyness and determination have the reader rooting for her from the start as she becomes more embroiled in the secrets of the island’s past and those elders who are determined to keep them secret at all costs.  This was a real page turner – what on earth was going on? – this was turning out to be one of my favourite reads in a long time – but then by chance I picked up another title in the YA section  that wasn’t a NZ post nominee – nor was it even a New Zealand book. I got distracted. 

Exodus  by Julie Bertagna- another girl on an island in a not too distant dystopian future -but this tale is far more wide ranging, with futuristic metropolises towering above a drowned world and feral children living amongst relics of a crumbling city.  Despite  its slightly preachy tones about global warming – I found this book to invoke powerful images and was completely hooked (and there is a sequel -yippee!). Unfortunately, for me despite finding Juno to be an enjoyable read it was then totally eclipsed by this book.

10pm question

The Tomorrow Code by Brian Falkner – Mysterious messages from the future, a devastating apocalyptic plague – the end of the human race. I was really looking forward to this book . And then I hated it!  However, this is a NEW ZEALAND book – you know this because almost every other sentence emphasises this fact whether the plot needs it or not.  It too is preachy about environmental issues – but not just slightly – and then the horror that threatens to obliterate mankind is just so much laughingly ridiculous, scientifically implausible nonsense that I simply felt embarrassment for the author.   Brian Falkner is well respected and has written other (children’s) books – I haven’t read these – they may be brilliant – but please, please don’t let him win an award for this.  Please! (Of course other people might disagree).

The 10pm Question is totally different – the only title in the nominee list that is about everyday New Zealand life.  The writing and characters are  funny and sparkly and it handles the topics of mental illness, worrying and growing up, in a gentle yet meaningful way.  I was laughing out loud at this in parts (and on the bus too!) – although about serious issues it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The other two nominees Chronicles of Stone #1: Scorched Bone by Vincent Ford and Gool by Maurice Gee – I haven’t read! I was going to – and before the award winners were announced too – but that’s tonight – so no.   They both seemed a bit similar to me  (young hunters searching out dangerous foe)  I started reading  Gool,  but not my cup of tea and  I know my rights (The rights of the reader  – #3 The right not to finish a book) – so I stopped.

So sorry – all will be revealed tonight – either The 10pm Question or Juno of Taris would be worthy winners, my slight preference is The 10pm Question.  But either way – even if youth is but a distant memory – the YA section of your local library is a great place for a great book – after all why should the young have all the best tales?