Author(s): Fleur Beale
The gripping sequel to the bestselling YA novels I am not Esther and I am Rebecca. Four years after Rebecca fled the religious community The Children of the Faith, twelve-year-old Magdalene bears the brunt of trying to protect and nurture her rebellious younger sister. Zillah isn't at all interested in behaving as befits a daughter of a Faith family, but Magdalene knows only too well the cost of rebellion. Life becomes increasingly difficult for the two girls as the Elders tighten the Rules the children must obey. Magdalene knows it is useless to appeal to their father for help and protection. He believes fully in the integrity of the Elders. His children must obey for if they do not, they will be denied salvation. But what can two children do when their lives become unbearable? Another wonderful novel by an award-winning writer.
Following on from I Am Rebecca, four years have passed and Magdalene is trying to help her little sister Zillah cope in the very strict religious community. Things feel different in this novel. The community is more disparate, with Elder Stephan becoming more threatening, the children’s mother slightly unhinged – she is taking to her bed more often. The four remaining children in the family don’t seem to be so immersed in the community – while still faithful they find ways to deal with the restrictions and have each other as confidantes. As more families leave the community and Zillah starts to ask more questions, Magdalene finds herself under pressure to protect Zillah and keep her mother’s wrath at bay, and more fraught about past happenings, particularly the disappearance of her older sister Miriam which she has always carried a guilt about. I loved the character of Magdalene. She’s confused and fraught with self-doubt yet determined to protect her younger sibling no matter what the consequences for herself. This is a good conclusion to this series which started with I Am Not Esther. Nothing is perfect and rosy, but Magdalene is the perfect vehicle to carry all the complexities of faith, loyalty, betrayal and adaption. Beale’s writing is excellent and the series is a must-read. - Stella
Fleur Beale is the author of many award-winning books for children and young adults - she has now had more than 40 books published in New Zealand, as well as being published in the United States and England. Beale is the only writer to have twice won the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-Loved Book:with Slide the Corner in 2007, and I Am Not Esther in 2009. She won the Esther Glen Award for distinguished contribution to children's literature for Juno of Taris in the 2009 LIANZA Children's Book Awards. Fierce September won the YA category in the 2011 NZ Post Children's Book Awards and the LIANZA Young Adult Award in 2011. In 2012 she won the Margaret Mahy Medal for her outstanding contribution to children's writing and in 2015 she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. In 1999, Beale was Dunedin College of Education's Writer in Residence. A former high-school teacher, Beale lives in Wellington. One of Beale's most well-known books is I Am Not Esther, the story of a girl who is sent to live with relatives who are members of a strict religious cult. It's a gripping psychological thriller that won an Honour Award in the 1990 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards and features in the latest volume of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up, produced by UK publisher Quintessence. It was reissued in 2012 and has been in print since first published. Magpies identified it as a novel that 'will have relevance wherever there are attempts to control the minds and emotions of children'. The bulk of Beale's writing is set in the contemporary world. Topics range from boys who fix up an old car to bash around a paddock with, a girl who must take over her father's business until he's well enough to take back the reins, to a story about a 15-year-old boy who is a top kart racer. The New Zealand Listener has called Beale 'one of the most consistently accomplished and versatile writers for teenagers in the country'. A 'strong storyteller' (Trevor Agnew, The Press) who is 'consistently engaging' (Frances Grant, Weekend Herald), Beale is a popular participant in the Writers in School programme, testifying that she is 'in touch with the modern young market' (Northern Advocate). Her entry in The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature noted that her characters are 'intensely aware of their difficulties, social troubles and shortcomings', and in so doing she exhibits 'her understanding of teenagers, male and female, and ability to motivate even reluctant readers'. Acclaimed as 'a riveting futuristic story', in the National Library's Services to Schools review,Juno of Tarris was likened to Bernard Beckett's Genesis and the 'classic' The Giver by Lois Lowry. The reviewer concluded: 'it is a brilliant story that completely enthralled me'. The sequel, Fierce September, was named one of The New Zealand Listener's '50 Best Children's Books of 2010', and North and South praised its narrative for its 'compelling authenticity', while the Otago Daily Times wrote: 'The writing is tight; the characterisation credible, and the narrative exciting.' The book's innovative technique of opening each chapter with a blog commentary on events was widely acclaimed, the reviewer in Magpies commenting that the 'cross-media technique of combining online blogs with traditional text ... brings the book vividly into our world'. Reviewing The Heart of Danger, the concluding volume in the Juno trilogy, in New Zealand Books, Angelina Sbroma identified Juno as a 'protagonist of wish-fulfilment fantasy in the grand tradition', but for all that is still a 'rounded character'. The book left Bob Docherty requesting a fourth volume.