review plans

I’m starting my PhD in YA lit next month and so my plan is to read a book a month that is relevant to my topic. My thesis is focusing on non-binary gender, bisexual identities and coming out so I guess my reviews are going to mostly focus on these aspects of the books. It’s also (hopefully) going to serve as a catalogue for my own research, but it might be useful for other people so here we are.

I’m gonna read books where any MC/major character is any kind of queer though, so not all of them will have either nb or bi characters. I am also probably going to include some NA books, too.

Aaaand if you have any reccs, pls let me know either on twitter or email me at alisonevanssmith at gmail dot com. I also have a list of books I’m planning to read (or have previously read) over on goodreads.

Australian women writers challenge 2014 wrapup

IMG_20141227_210711so I only wrote one review this whole year for the AWW challenge, but I read a whole lot of neat books by Australian women. Here are some that are pretty neat:

Danklands by Holly Childs
Sprawl ed. Alisa Krasnostein
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
The Service of Clouds by Delia Falconer
Close Call by Eloise March
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
All of Us by Mary Lawson
Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman
The Loud Earth by Elisabeth Murray
No Limit by Holly Childs
Cracked by Clare Strahan
Ink by Isabelle Rowan

Review: No Limit by Holly Childs

nolimit_webThe blurb of No Limit (2014) says it’s told in “sugar-rush prose” and this sums it up pretty well. This is a novella that kind of reads like you’re browsing the internet. You’ve got twitter open, tumblr, you’re IMing ten different people and writing a few emails at the same time.

Ash, our main character, is on a connecting flight from Auckland when a volcanic eruption begins and her flight is grounded indefinitely. Is it the apocalypse? Maybe. She’s not going to die at the airport, so she gets a taxi out of there.

There’s not a lot of action and we mostly watch as Ash travels with people she barely knows (including the dream girl she passed at the airport) around a city she doesn’t know. There are apocalypse parties, bathroom orgies, internet cafes. There’s twitter, tumblr, skype, facebook, texting. This is how you write about the internet.

The prose can be intense, super vivid, with sprawling sentences:

After walking super slowly for about twenty metres in absolute blackness, dark enough that Ash can’t tell if her eyes are open or closed, and Mack is having flashbacks to his shit dad preaching on the horrors of death’s kingdom, and Ash has to spit the Skittles out of her mouth because they taste to intense without colour, and Mack thinks that maybe this is the final solution–after all that, they turn a corner and see rainbow oscillating light illuminating a pile of bricks from behind a gap in the wall and the beat gets louder, louder. (p45)

The book is only eighty five pages long and Childs sustains the fierce style throughout, any longer and it may not have worked.

Another super great thing is all the queer representation — almost every character is either non-hetero or non-cis and it’s never really a big thing. No labels are really used and sometimes that can read terribly, but here in this clever, fast-paced, surreal maybe-apocalypse world, it works.

No Limit is published by Hologram and you can buy it here.

5/5 stars

Australian women writers challenge 2014

awwbadge_2014This year I want to read more Australian fiction, and I love reading things written by ladies, so I’m participating in the Australian women writers challenge.

I’m attempting the Franklin level, meaning I’ll read ten books and review at least six. Reviews will be posted in the, wait for it, reviews category.

I want to focus on three areas:

  • Young adult
  • Graphic novels

… and if you think I’d like to read something, suggest away!

You can find AWW on twitter @auswomenwriters, or by using #aww2014.

NaNoWriMo again

My novel so far:


… in word cloud form. I guess that the don is from all the don’ts that I leave the t’s off, because STRAYA.

In all honesty I thought fuckin would be there a whole heap more (but there is also fuck, so I guess that counts for something). This year, I’m extending the zombie story that I got published a few months ago, and it’s more explicitly YA. I’ve also got another MC in there, so there are two main narratives that will merge at … some point.

As of 15,000 words in I only have two more chapters plotted until I’m winging it. So I assume the two groups will meet, who knows.



Writing style is something I never really worried about until this year until someone pointed it out to me. Some vague amount of time ago, I decided that I’m was going to be a YA author. I’ve always liked YA and recently I’ve been reading a lot of terrible YA for my thesis project (not all of it is terrible), and so I’ve unconsciously absorbed a lot of terrible, lazy habits.

So I go to uni and study creative writing, but I think that I don’t really have a writing style to call my own. I can kind of manage one in my short short stories, but I find this much harder when writing anything above 500 words. Sustaining that style just becomes too hard and so I get lazy. I tried to start my thesis story a while back, got to 5k words and then saw it was just a reproduction of the YA that shits me up the wall; my story was flavourless.

I think this piece, called Salt and published in Deakin University’s writers’ club’s publication (phew), Wordly, is the beginnings of what could be my own style, but I don’t know.


Right now I can’t write like that for very long, the piece above is only 300 or so words, but I want to have my own voice. So that’s a side-goal for my honours year, I guess.

(Also, what a cool font my story is in. Whoever chose that is a genius, I say!)

Adventures in honour(s)

Reasons I have not updated this in a long time include uni! So I’m doing honours at the moment and we have to write a story and an exegesis and they make up a thesis (which is a terrifying word).

Interrogating heteronormativity: pansexuality and gender variance in young adult fiction is what my project is called at the moment. It has a nice colon and many keywords in it, so I am quite happy.

(Titles are hard and I hate them. I’m fairly certain that my story will also need a title, so the week before it’s due I may just be crying in a corner somewhere because titles are hard.)

So basically what I’m researching is heteronormativity in YA fiction. Books that try and avoid it often end up perpetuating it anyway (not all of them!) and I want to know why. Because I do it myself, in ways that I don’t realise until I read through my first draft and see all these icky things in there. The way I’ve tended to go lately is just completely ignore heteronormativity because I just got sick of dealing with it. If I give my protagonists a limited pool of characters they deal with, then I can gloss over the issue.

But if I ignore it, is that somehow irresponsible? And I don’t know. And I’m not making a judgement on other authors here, this project is really just about me and my own writing. Other authors can do what they like.

Maybe after this year I’ll just go back to my old way of ignoring everything. But examining my own writing is something that I want to do, and honours is providing me a structured way to do it.