Wildlife by Fiona Wood.
YOUNG ADULT FICTION
For young adult literature featuring empowered female heroines, look no further than the latest offerings from authors Fiona Wood and Juliet Marillier.
Wildlife by Wood is a contemporary Australian coming-of-age novel. The narrative switches between the first-person point of view of 16-year-old Sibylla and the journal entries of Lou, a character reprised by Wood from her earlier Six Impossible Things.
The two girls find themselves sharing a room at Crowthorne Grammar School's outdoor education camp. While Sibylla obsesses about a living boy, Lou obsesses about a dead one. Sibylla is inexperienced and used to being overlooked. Her chance for romance comes when popular yet unreachable Ben notices her.
Lou is more world-wise than her room mate but her life has been shattered by the shock death of her boyfriend, Dan. Tormented by depression and loneliness, Lou is angry and unhinged when she arrives at camp, her grief reflected in her broken, erratic diary entries: ''My heart is its own fierce country where nobody else is welcome.''
Will Sibylla succumb to peer pressure or will her self-respect win through? And can Lou make it back from the brink of despair?
Top marks to Wood for a realistic portrayal of genuine, intelligent female lead characters who readers will truly barrack for and view as positive role models.
Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier is the second instalment in the Shadowfell trilogy set in the magical world of Alban. Fifteen-year-old Neryn has joined forces with the rebel cause against evil King Keldec and must embark on a perilous voyage to develop her gifts as a ''Caller''.
Accompanying Neryn is feisty girl warrior Tali. Despite their differences, both young women show admirable strength, courage, restraint and sacrifice. As literary heroines, they shine for all to see.
If readers haven't already done so, they might wish to visit Shadowfell, the first book in the series, to better acquaint themselves with Alban and the many enigmatic characters inhabiting it. Even without this, it's impossible not to become swiftly engrossed in Neryn and Tali's plight in book two.
The mysterious, dangerous and beautiful world created by Marillier is constructed impeccably. The tension builds to a gripping gladiator-style climax where allies are pitted against one another and the odds are stacked so high, readers are promised a dramatic and unexpected conclusion. No doubt fans will eagerly await the final instalment in this impressive fantasy series.