Review: ‘Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean’ edited by Kirsty Murray, Payal Dhar and Anita Roy

9781743319789

My heart ached. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to write that sentence as often as I did while reading Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, an anthology comprised of ten short stories, six graphic stories and one play script. As noted in the introduction by Kirsty Murray, the anthology was inspired by protests in Delhi and Melbourne following violent crimes against young women in late 2012 (the women are not named, but they are presumably Jyoti Singh and Jill Meagher). Each of the stories offer a sense of hope, fulfilling the aim to convey “desire to have and do impossible things, especially things that girls aren’t meant to do.” This anthology is a celebration of collaboration, with notes from each of the creators giving insight into the writing and collaboration process. This book needs to be a set text in schools. I’ve reviewed a few of my favourites.

You’ve heard this story. Only this time she didn’t meet a wolf in the woods. There were no woods, no wolves.

‘Little Red Suit’ by Justine Larbalestier re-imagines Little Red Riding Hood in a flood and drought-ravaged Sydney, where 50,000 survivors are crammed together in an underground city. 15-year-old Poppy lives with her mother, while Poppy’s grandmother is one of the remaining few who live above ground in a sealed home outside the city. Grandma Lily is one of the few to afford such privilege (and risk) because she is an engineer, the most valued member of society. When Grandma Lily doesn’t reply to Poppy’s message, Poppy takes it upon herself to go to her grandmother’s house to make sure she is okay.  A suffocating city, dilapidated buildings, electrical storms, and a predatory howl all make for an intense read. With brilliant world-building and a strong-willed, resourceful and brave female protagonist, Larbalestier created an intoxicating atmospheric story.

She was the most beautiful girl in our village, but on that day her head was shaved and she was dressed in sackcloth.

‘Cast Out’ by Samhita Arni, is a confronting read. The lack of power afforded to women and girls, and the futility of any attempt at resistance, is achingly told by Karthini, the young narrator who witnesses multiple instances of girls being set out to sea to die for displaying magic, or simply because they are female. The brutality is unrelenting, as the girls are publicly humiliated and beaten before sent to their doom, while the women who should protect them are shackled by the patriarchy. There is no room for chance of a better future for girls in this land, which is made all the more tragic through Arni’s emotional restraint, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope.

These men, they didn’t look like monsters, but the words pouring out of their mouths fouled up my whole world, every morning and every afternoon.

A Gran Sasso Device causes the filthy words to fly right back into a predator’s mouth, as though the words were never heard or never said. But, Melita can’t afford a Gran Sasso device, so how will she get one so she can stop the men outside the teashop from objectifying her and making her feel unsafe? ‘Cat Calls’ by Margo Lanagan is equally uplifting as it is unnerving. To say any more would spoil the story.

As far as superpowers go, it’s a pretty lame one. I haven’t worked out how to use it, you know, to fight crime or save the world. I can’t even use it to save Bonnie.

Vega can go into objects. A bowl. A stone. She is highly self-conscious, having only confided in her best friend Bonnie about her ability. Bonnie is the centre of Vega’s universe. Bonnie is dying. ‘What a Stone Can’t Feel’ by Penni Russon vividly depicts the inadequacies many teens feel when struggling to find their sense of place. It beautifully captures the relationship between best friends and the helplessness Vega feels as she tries to be there for her friend while coming to terms with having to forge her own identity and sense of self worth.

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Event Highlights: The Year Ahead in Youth Literature

Last night the Centre for Youth Literature hosted ‘The Year Ahead in Youth Literature’ (aka YA speed-dating) at the State Library of Victoria. With over 70 titles from 15 publishing houses to be presented in 2 hours, each publisher was allotted 5 minutes to promote and celebrate just a slice of their 2016 YA lists. The sold-out event was heavily tweeted (The Centre for Youth Literature have created a Storify of all the Tweets). Exciting times ahead in YAland, with such a diverse array of titles, featuring ghosts, witches, asylum seekers, mental illness, grief, love and a celebration of Australian YA.

Here are just a few of my favourites from the night.

When We Collided by Emery Lord

WhenWeCollided
Pub: Bloomsbury
Pub date: May 2016
Grief, love and bipolar. 17 year-old Jonah is struggling with his family life – his father died suddenly, and his mother has fallen into a deep depression. Vivi is the new girl in town – unabashed and unfiltered. What Jonah doesn’t know, is Vivi recently stopped taking her bi-polar medication.

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

TheLeavingPub: Bloomsbury
Pub date: June 2016
Six children disappear from a small town without a trace. 11 years later, five of them return.

Promising Azra by Helen Thurloe

Azra
Pub: Allen & Unwin
Pub date: September 2016
Arranged marriage in Sydney. The impact forced marriages have on both the young men and women.

Between Us by Clare Atkins

Pub: Black Inc
Pub date: 2016
Love. Crossed Wires. Set in Northern Territory, two teenagers fall in love. One doesn’t know the other is otherwise incarcerated in a detention centre.

Untitled #LoveOZYA anthology edited by Danielle Binks

Pub: HarperCollins
Pub date: 2016
An anthology celebrating the talents of 10 Australian YA authors, spearheaded by Danielle Binks. This project was announced at The Year Ahead in Youth Literature. You can read more about the anthology, and what inspired its creation, here.

Book of Lies by Teri Terry

Bookoflies
Pub: Hachette
Pub date: 22 March, 2016
Good witch. Bad witch. One is the hunter. One is the hunted.

Untitled Ampersand Prize winning novel by Calanthe Black

Pub: Hardie Grant Egmont
Pub date: September 2016
a 15 year-old stowaway is kidnapped by an alien race and forced to act as their translator.

The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale

Pub: Random House
Pub date: 01 June 2016
Loved and lost. Magic and realism. The impossible becomes possible.

The Road to Winter by Mark Smith

Pub: Text Publishing
Pub date: 22 June 2016
Set in the near future, where asylum seekers bought and sold at auction. Explores issues of identity and conflict

One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn

Pub: UQP
Pub date: May 2016
17 year-old mourning the sudden death of his mother. Set in 1997. 90’s nostalgia paired with contemporary issues.

Frankie by Shivaun Plozza

Frankie
Pub: Penguin
Pub date: 28 March 2016
Frankie is angry. Then a kid shows up, claiming to be her half brother and opens up a past she would rather forget. Then, he goes missing.

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

sidekicks
Pub: Penguin
Pub date: 2016
What happens when 3 boys realise they’re not friends, but have to deal with the death of a mutual friend.

The Things I Didn’t Say by Kylie Fornasier

ThingsIdidnt
Pub: Penguin
Pub date: 27 April 2016
Anxiety. Selective Mutism. Love.