May – Ruth Eastham – The Messenger Bird

messenger bird

A different approach to the WW2 era. Nathan and his family have moved into a house his family inherited from his Great Aunt (who lived there during WW2). In the house are clues to a mystery involving the Enigma Code. When Nathan’s Dad gets arrested for breaking the Official Secrets Act, it is up to Nathan to solve the mystery and clear his Dad.  This was an enjoyable mystery/adventure that kept me intrigued. Not challenging but well written. Suitable for Year 7-8.

May – Belinda Murrell – The Sequin Star

sequin star
I really enjoyed this time slip novel. The main character, Claire goes back in time to 1932. As a history teacher who grew up in Sydney, the story resonates with me. The opening of the harbour bridge, the locations around Sydney and the “making do” of many during the Great Depression are things I have taught students or talked about with older people. I would have liked to have had this book as another way in to a sometimes “dry” topic. More for Year 6-8 rather than older year levels but very much worth a read.
Teacher Resources available at the Random House page.

April – ICT Dystopians – Eggers, Malley, Doctorow

I decided to put these three together in one post as there seems to be considerable overlap with the themes. I am also reminded of Brainjack which I blogged about a while ago.


the circlelittle brotherkillables

Dave Eggers – The Circle


I discovered this book late last year when I read the first few chapters on some promotional website and thought it would be worth reading. The idea of a powerful internet company that essentially takes over the world (and knows all) really resonates with me.   Even in the time since it was published some of the more futuristic aspects of it seem less farfetched. For example, both Google and Facebook have purchased drone technology in the past month and Google purchased artificial intelligence technology earlier in the year. The premise of the story is somewhat Orwellian in that with The Circle everyone knows everything (privacy is theft, secrets are lies and sharing is caring) and think that this is a good, normal way to be.  The main character Mae is likeable but frustrating in that she is desperate and gullible, she wants as many smiley faces and friends (sounds like Facebook) as possible.  Overall, I enjoyed this novel for the warnings it offers and as a nice change to the more common Hunger Games type dystopians.

Gemma Malley – The Killables, The Disappearances.

These two fit in nicely with my review of The Circle, as the first (The Killables) is about a society where everyone has a label and there is a system that knows and sees all –

Everyone accepted that people were different physically. But inside? Inside, they were different too. You just had to know how to tell, what to look for. Evil has been eradicated. The City has been established. And citizens may only enter after having the ‘evil’ part of their brain removed. They are labelled on the System according to how ‘good’ they are. If they show signs of the evil emerging, they are labelled a K …But no one knows quite what that means. Only that they disappear, never to be seen again ..

And the second  (The Disappearances) provides the background to how and why that system was created.  There is a third in this trilogy which I am yet to read. I must admit I didn’t find either book riveting but liked the ideas behind both.

Cory Doctorow – Little Brother


There is a definite theme with my recent reading….. another computer controlled dystopian world.

From Goodreads – Marcus aka “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, his injured best friend Darryl does not come out. The city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: “M1k3y” will take down the DHS himself.

More believable and exciting than The Killables, but two weeks on from reading it I can’t remember many of the details!

March – James Phelan – The last thirteen

I really enjoyed James Phelan’s – Survivor/Alone series and when this was recommended to me by a Year 7 student looked out for it.  The first of 13 books (sigh), the story focuses on a group of teenagers who have “true dreams” and the idea that they have harness control of their dream “visions” to stop the end of the world.  Three days on from reading it, I can’t remember the characters names but do think it would appeal to younger dystopian readers. It certainly has similar elements to Divergent and The Hunger Games without getting too bogged down in character and setting development. Enough action mixed in with the “what is happening to me?” type story. Recommend for Year 6-9. Have a look at the website

Phillip Gwynne – The Debt Series

One boy. Six tasks. An ancient family debt.

I am up to the last in this series and whilst I have found it reminiscent of the Conspiracy 365 series have enjoyed it more – there is less repetition in the action and the idea of a new task to repay the family debt (or lose a pound of flesh) gives each story a certain freshness.  The main character Dom, like so many novels of the current era is a teenage boy expected to do extraordinary things (think Young Bond, Muchamores’ Cherub) in this case face and complete a series of challenges (capture a teen bandit, turn off the lights in the Gold Coast, bring back a treasure hunter, get a new whizz bang model of a mobile phone and so on) to repay a family debt that goes back to Italy/Australia in the 1800s. If he doesn’t complete the challenges he will lose a limb/pound of flesh. Dom is likeable and is not some teenage superhero. He struggles with the tasks and gets sufficiently hurt/beat up that we empathise with him.  The subplot of what his father did to repay the debt for his generation and his family background no doubt will be resolved in the final instalment.

An easy but fun read – I have been recommending it to students between Yr. 7-10

Catch the Zolt