Unfamiliar familiar worlds

Don’t you love that feeling of reading a book set in a world that is eerily familiar – but not quite? A world, perhaps, that seems like ours but where everything is unexpected, different – foreign?

In expert hands, it can be one of reading’s great pleasures.

Here are two cases in point, in recent YA literature.

This is Shyness, Leanne Hall
Set in Melbourne (kind of), along Smith Street (maybe). Or not.

This is Shyness is the story of one night in a suburb, Shyness, where night is all there is. The sun doesn’t rise, wild kids roam and ravage, creepy men in black suits cruise the streets, and Wildgirl meets a dark, handsome howling boy just at a moment when they both need to escape.

It’s a spooky place that feels like a world we know, gone badly wrong. It’s not even dystopian fiction, really – just a beautifully imagined parallel universe of inner city bars, government flats, gangs and music and darkness.

Looking forward to the sequel, Queen of the Night, due early next year.

The Leviathan trilogy, Scott Westerfeld
Goliath (just out last month) is the satisfying final instalment of Westerfeld’s re-imagining of World War I into a steampunk world of Clankers versus Darwinians, of enormous – living – flying machines and sea creatures pitted against mechanical clanking monsters spitting bullets, of a girl dressed as a boy and a prince dressed as a commoner, of a world caught up in war and espionage and intrigue.

For younger readers, it’s a non-stop action adventure of the very best kind: intelligent and fascinating.

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