Begin, End, Begin was established as a result of the #loveOZYA community, a social media group who promote everything there is to love about Australian YA. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey and The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak are two of the best YA books I’ve ever read, but without a large range available in most British shops, it takes the internet to promote titles between countries.
It is a great anthology of short stories. Lots of the stories pick up on the pressure young people are under to achieve in a world which seems to offer little in return. I was pleased to find stories about first jobs and post-school choices – this is something I think British YA is lacking. In every other age-band it is commonly understood that young people want to read about the near future, as well as the things which reflect their current age. There are stories here about balancing school with a part time job, about university choices and how difficult it can be to move away from the life you have always known.
I would love to hear what some teenage readers think about the anthology. Did you feel it reflected your concerns?
In one sense it was nice not to recognise the author names because I read blind. I didn’t know whether an author was a debut author, a major award-winner or a midlist staple. I read the words alone. Having read these stories, I am keen to read novels bythe featured authors, and to explore the breadth of Aussie YA. Here are some short reviews of my favourite stories:One Small Step by Annie Kaufman
The first child born on a Mars colony has been featured on social media since birth. Every step of her life has been watched, and it is no different now she is making her choice about university. Zaida’s parents want her to accept Harvard so they can share the good news with their audience on Earth, but is that what Zaida wants? There is someone back on Mars she would like to stay for.
This story shows a problem which has only faced the current generation of kids – social media parenting. Do we have a right to put our child’s life on the internet? At what age should someone decide for themselves? These are new questions, and it is good to see conversation directed at the people who matter most: the young people who have grown up in a time of social media.
The pressure to decide your future at a young age is also well portrayed. Why does everyone think Zaida should know what she wants now? Where do we get this misconception that everyone picks one path? Young people are afraid to stray from the traditional route of school-university-career, but in reality most lives don’t work that way. What happens when you hate your course? When you want to do a job unrelated to your qualifications? When you relocate for love to a place which makes your job unviable? Young people need to know that these hurdles are normal, and life is less predictable than it can seem.
I Can See The Ending by Will Kostakis
Adam can see the future. He plots it on post-it notes every time he sees something new. He knows his friend’s kitten won’t survive, and he knows he will one day divorce the girl he wants to date. Should he date her, knowing how it ends?
A story which reminds us life won’t always be smooth. Things which have taken years to build can end in a moment. Should we give up before we hurt ourselves, or enter with realistic expectations?
Adam and Nina work in a shopping-centre food court, and Adam thinks he is losing hours because he has hit 18 and must be paid a higher salary. It was nice to see the dull, disappointing reality of youth depicted alongside the romance. Life isn’t all successes and late-night parties, and it is good for young readers to know that saving money in a boring job is where lots of things start.
Oona Underground by Lili Wilkinson
Meg would follow Oona anywhere. When Oona sent a note into circulation, saying it would predict her future love, Meg stole it. She couldn’t risk Oona choosing someone else. Meg follows Oona to the Witch Queen to learn their destiny.
A lyrical story about letting other people make their own choices. This reminded me of David Almond’s A Song for Ella Grey. Both have vibes of Orpheus and Eurydice, and both are about girls who love another girl so much they would follow her to the end of the world.
Last Night At Mount Solemn Observatory by Danielle Binks
Bowie’s brother King is about to travel the world, and Bowie wants to be part of his last night in town. She loves King, and the friends he has made even though so many people don’t bother to get to know him because he uses sign language.
The descriptions of sign language were fascinating, and I loved how the characters’ names all made expressive signs. Bowie is a great protagonist – she loves maths, and there were lots of maths in-jokes. It was lovely to see a story where interest in maths is celebrated.
Huge thanks to Harper 360 for my copy. Opinions remain my own.