The Friendship Matchmaker by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Randa is on my must read list and I make sure I read everything she writes. In this new book she has written a junior fiction novel. I was really interested to read this because junior fiction is the 'it' genre at the moment.
I really enjoyed this book about Lara who's life work is to find friends for others. Lara's advice is suspect and there is quite a bit of fun to be had there. There is depth and heart in this novel as we find out what has shaped and influenced Lara and her life's ambition to be a friendship matchmaker.
I can see the appeal of junior fiction for readers. This reminded me of The Babysitter's Club which was my fiction of choice when I was an adolescent. Parents are noticeably absent, unless they are performing valet duty, and the protagonists dream big and live almost grown up lives on one level. The conflict is all related to the friendship groups and the main difference to young adult fiction is that there isn't a big coming of age turning point in the end. Whilst the protagonist has a realisation, they are still in the same mindset. Ideas are swirling.
Courting Samira by Amal Awad
This is a debut novel by Awad and it's in the chick lit genre. Awad has a great voice and has created a well-rounded character in Samira who is searching for love while coming to terms with what she wants in life.
Her novel is best described as an Austen-esque romance in the Muslim world and gives great insight into the courting rituals of an arranged marriage.
There is humour and a love triangle that kept me guessing to the end.
Her Father's Daughter by Alice Pung
I read Alice's memoir Unpolished Gem when it was published a few years ago and loved it. When I saw she had a second book out it instantly moved onto my must read list.
With this new memoir Pung is exploring her father's life in the killing fields of Cambodia and how this has shaped his over-cautious nature and influenced his children's life.
The memoir is written in third person and shifts between the two points of view of father and daughter. Pung has a beautifully lyrical style, but the real revelation was the way she was able to capture the brutality that her father lived through with a delicate hand. There is a scene where she visits the field where her father buried the dead. She reflects on the fragility of the human body and what happens when a body starves to death. She doesn't attempt to recreate the scenes her father lived through, and yet through this reflective process she makes the reader so aware of the brutality of the regime he survived.
Was very impressed with this memoir and there were some lessons for me and my writing process. Sometimes I automatically turn to shock value to make a point. But the reader doesn't need everything in their face to feel the emotion you're trying to create. Sometimes less is more.
Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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