Winning with Jenna: Australian YA Contemporary


I’ve been in a bit of a reading and blogging slump lately, and I’ve been wracking my brain for post ideas. So I’ve decided to do a recommendations series on this blog. I love talking about books that I enjoyed and you guys seem to love getting recommendations from me. I’ll feature three books in each of my posts and hopefully, you’ll discover something new to fall in love with!

Full credit goes to Joey @ Thoughts and Afterthoughts for the title, ‘Winning with Jenna’. Last year, I had planned to do a bookish awards post to talk about my favourites of the year and Joey came up with the title for me. I never ended up creating that favourites post so I thought I’d use it now.

Today, I’m going to kick off my recommendation series with Australian YA contemporaries. A lot of my readers seem to be really interested in Aussie YA but have no idea where to start. Here are three of my favourite contemporaries, written by Australian authors.

the flywheel Title: The Flywheel by Erin Gough
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Release date: February 1, 2015
Rating: 5 out of 5
Goodreads || Book Depository || Amazon

Seventeen-year-old Del drops out of high school when her romance with another girl goes horribly wrong. Preferring chaos to bullying, Del makes it her mission to save her dad’s crumbling café, the Flywheel, while he ‘finds himself’ overseas.

Accompanied by her charming troublemaker best friend Charlie, Del sets out to save the cafe, keep Charlie out of prison, and maybe get a date with Rosa, the beautiful flamenco dancer from across the road. But when life is messy enough as it is, can girl-on-girl romance ever have a happy ending?

This was a wonderful LGBTQ+ novel that fans of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda would love! It was heartwarming and funny and I absolutely adored the characters in this book. This book is set in Sydney and features lots of places that I’m familiar with. When I read this one last year, it was unavailable outside of Australia but now you can get the ebook from the Kindle store and the physical book from Book Depository.

the stars at oktober bend Title: The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: February 1, 2016
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Goodreads || Book Depository || Amazon

Alice is fifteen, with hair as red as fire and skin as pale as bone, but something inside her is broken. She has acquired brain injury, the result of an assault, and her words come out slow and slurred. But when she writes, heartwords fly from her pen. She writes poems to express the words she can’t say and leaves them in unexpected places around the town.

Manny was once a child soldier. He is sixteen and has lost all his family. He appears to be adapting to his new life in this country, where there is comfort and safety, but at night he runs, barefoot, to escape the memory of his past. When he first sees Alice, she is sitting on the rusty roof of her river-house, looking like a carving on an old-fashioned ship sailing through the stars.

I absolutely loved this book when I read it back in January. It was beautifully written, with a strange combination of prose and poetry. The characters and relationships in this book are fantastic and they’ll stay with me for a long time to come.

the sidekicks Title: The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Release date: February 29, 2016
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Goodreads || Book Depository || Amazon

The Swimmer. The Rebel. The Nerd.

All Ryan, Harley and Miles had in common was Isaac. They lived different lives, had different interests and kept different secrets. But they shared the same best friend. They were sidekicks. And now that Isaac’s gone, what does that make them?

The Sidekicks is a masterpiece. It is such a relatable book and really packs a punch, despite being under 250 pages long. It was a powerful story about grief and camaraderie, and how even the most different of people can become friends. I highly recommend this one to anyone who wants a realistic and relatable read!

I hope you liked my first Winning with Jenna post. I’ll probably feature Australian YA fantasy novels in my next recommendations post but let me know what else you’d like to see.


9 thoughts on “Winning with Jenna: Australian YA Contemporary

  1. Lois says:

    The Sidekicks sounds like my kind of book despite the fact that it’s only 250 pages long which is usually a turn off for me. I can see this one packing a punch or two and I love books that focus on friendships.

    Your review on The Stars at Oktober Bend already had me sold. It’s just a matter of finding time to read it haha.

    I’ve still not read Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and now The Flywheel has been added to last list. But like you and a lot of other bloggers, I seem to be stuck in a bit of reading slump and I’m not really in the mood for contemporary at the moment.

    I will make it my mission to one day read these books though. I promise you that haha. Also, love the Winning with Jenna title. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      The Sidekicks came along at the perfect time for me. I was starting to feel a little bit slumpy at that time, so a short book was absolutely perfect. It was just really impactful and a really honest depiction of high school and grief. The Stars of Oktober Bend is a pretty sad book so you definitely don’t want to be reading that when you’re in a reading slump 😀 It’s definitely worth a read though because it’s so unique and the characters are fantastic! The Flywheel is a much lighter book. It’s actually quite humorous and has a lot of Australian culture in it. I loved it when I read it last year!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      I think Australian YA does LGBTQ+ and diverse characters really well! Because we’re such a multicultural country, most OzYA books I pick up have a POC character and it’s refreshing to see because it actually mirrors my life and the people I encounter every day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence says:

    I’m really looking forward to reading The Sidekicks, especially after reading your fantastic review! I haven’t heard much about Flywheel but great to hear you enjoyed it. What a fun feature Jenna, looking forward to more! And Joey came up with such an awesome name lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Seriously, Joey has the best ideas. I wish I could have a sliver of his brain and merge it with mine. He came up with it so quickly as well. I’m so excited for you to read The Sidekicks! It was so good and really quick to read too! Can’t wait to pick up The First Third now.


  3. Ksenia says:

    Joey always creates such catching titles. I love this feature, Jenna! Book recommendations? Yes, please. I’m looking forward to more contemporary recs from you.

    I still need to read Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I’ve seen The Flywheel around, but didn’t have a chance to read it. Thanks for bringing my attention to Australian titles.


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