Posts Tagged ‘Mandy Hager’

All the bright places
By Jennifer Niven
ISBN 9780141357034


I stick by my predictions that this was going to be brave and honest. And it was!
I sat on my back porch, sun streaming down on a glorious afternoon reading All the bright places.
Finch and Violet meet at the top of the school tower, both of them overwhelmed by a sense of deep, dark despair. From that meeting, while it takes a bit of time and negotiating, their relationship grows and I felt myself smiling as I was watching a young couple fall in love. Both have things they need to deal with and bit by bit things begin to change. Finch forces the situation and they are teamed together to work on a school project. He manages to encourage Violet to step well out of her comfort zone as they travel outside of the safety of their small town as part of the project’s requirements to find the natural wonders of their state. But as Violet’s world opens up, his world becomes more and more difficult to cope with. By the end of the book, I was still sitting on my porch in the sunshine, but tears falling (hoping the neighbours didn’t hear) feeling I just wanted to reach out and hug them both.

Mental health issues, especially for teenagers is often a taboo subject but it shouldn’t be. We need open discussions and we need to not be afraid to talk. Finch and Violet are both broken people, both needing help but not knowing where to turn. There is hope, always hope but sometimes, like Violet, you need to be shown where hope hides and find all the bright places. Very moving, thought provoking YA novel.
Check out the great trailer for this book posted earlier right here.
Much like Mandy Hager’s Dear Vincent in an earlier post I applaud authors of YA fiction for bringing us such poignant novels.

Again, if you need help or know someone who does, please don’t hesitate to ask someone. There are agencies to call, and teachers at school who will listen. Reach out!

Singing home the whale
By Mandy Hager
ISBN 9781775536574
Random House NZ


Singing home the whale is a stunning novel dealing with so many issues. Will Jackson is a troubled teen who is forced to move from the city to live with his uncle in a quite fishing community. However troubled he is, things are about to get worse.
A chance meeting with a baby orca turns Will’s life upside down but being from the city, some folk consider him an outsider and are ready to turn on him despite his pleas for the whale.
This is a powerful story of a friendship beyond species. Will and the baby whale he names Min, become entwined in a real battle for life. How can Will protect the baby whale and stop the the whole community diving in to chaos? Told in alternating chapters Will and Min both tell their stories. Min’s story is lyrical and at times beautifully haunting. Will’s is gritty, often violent and full of drama. However, Mandy Hager weaves their stories together in a heart-warming way. There is also a little romance and even the impact of social media when it goes terribly wrong. Hager’s novel is an emotional journey that leaves the reader hopeful for a better future. I loved this book. I was very moved by the relationship between Will and Min and found myself getting angry at some of the horrors that were unfolding. I was at the end, left with hope and that is a powerful way to end a story. A solid story dealing with global concerns and how one person can make a difference.

Dear Vincent
By Mandy Hager


Tara is 17 and overwhelmed by what  life keeps throwing at her.  She is trying to succeed at school, working part-time to help out at home as well as caring for her stroke-ridden father. Her mother is brutal, uncaring  and abusive. Tara misses her older sister, Van who died five years ago and consoles herself with painting. She is obsessed with Vincent Van Gogh seeing parallels between his life and hers.

The discovery that her sister had actually taken her own life leaves Tara distraught. She begins to spiral out of control desperate and self-destructive.

There is hope though in the companionship of an elderly man she cares for at the rest home where she works. He offers her strength and wonderful discussions about Vincent Van Gogh. But is it enough?

This book is raw and honest. Family secrets are hidden deep but the consequences are devastating. It is an emotional roller coaster which leaves the reader gasping for breath.

Suicide is very real and Mandy Hager is brave to tackle what is often a taboo subject. I highly recommend this book although the subject and reality of suicide  is not for everyone.

I  predict this gutsy novel will be a finalist on next year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book  Awards.