Shadowhunters: Very flawed but fun

I still enjoy Shadowhunters despite its flaws. There are times when I watch the show and roll my eyes just like I did with the books but at the heart of it, the world still feels fun with great characters even if the main character isn’t interesting and the world isn’t as fleshed out as I’d like.

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What If: A teenage girl discovers she is part of a hidden world within our own.

 

The Execution:

 

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Main Cast of the Television Show

 

On her eighteenth birthday, Clary Fray finds out her entire life is a lie when her mother is kidnapped. Clary is thrust into a world of supernatural beings – demons, warlocks, werewolves, vampires that are policed by part-angel beings called Shadowhunters. She finds out she is also a shadowhunter and she embarks to find out why her mother kept this secret from her.

 

I’m reviewing the Netflix version rather than the book as I had watched the television show recently but read the books a few years ago. I am not a diehard fan of the series, but I enjoyed it as a light urban fantasy read. The show is pretty fluffy too, I don’t ever believe any characters are in danger, and the whole ‘ending the world’ theme they have going on falls flat. The one thing I’ve noticed is that despite the changes between book and television show is that Clary and Jace are the most boring characters.

 

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I have no attachment to these two. 

 

I understand inserting an ‘everyman’ that the audience identifies with is a common way to introduce the exciting fantasy world. Harry Potter and the Hobbit do this very well. But the main character is supposed to be the person who drives the plot, and the audience/reader identifies with, and Clary is not it. She has no distractive voice or characteristics other than drawing (which isn’t shown very well), and it feels like the plot is happening to her rather than she’s driving the plot. Everyone and everything around her are far more interesting that I always question why we are following Clary. The only character that is more boring than Clary is Jace, despite all his brooding and dark past, he’s not interesting. He’s pretty, a good fighter and likes to brood. That’s it. Nothing else. And he’s the love interest. This was a problem in the source material as well; I don’t understand why they didn’t change the characters a bit since they have no problem changing the plot of the novels.

 

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Jace: Master of brooding. He is pretty though. 

 

 

Toeing the line between interesting side characters who do more than serving the plot but don’t overshadow the main story with their subplot is also difficult, and Shadowhunters fails on this front. I’m far too invested in Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood’s romance than I am in the plot to ‘destroy the world’ by Valentine. I’m more interested in watching Simon adjust to being a vampire than I am in Clary adjusting to being a Shadowhunter.

 

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The show does not have enough Magnus and Alec. 

 

It’s also hard when the world overshadows the main plot as well. The world of Shadowhunters is very dense with mythical creatures yet doesn’t go into how they work much. It is something like “Oh look Warlocks!” or “Oh look Vampires!” than it does in explaining how they all live together in our world. While you don’t want to spend hours upon hours exploring every mythical part of the world, you still expect a bit of explanation or having them part of the plot and world in a meaningful way. At times, it feels like they introduce things just to sound cool. Towards the end of the first season, Clary goes into an alternative world which serves little purpose to the plot other than to laugh at the alternative lives of characters in a world with no shadowhunters.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

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Everyone in this universe is ridiculously good looking. 

 

I still enjoy Shadowhunters despite its flaws. There are times when I watch the show and roll my eyes just like I did with the books but at the heart of it, the world still feels fun with great characters even if the main character isn’t interesting and the world isn’t as fleshed out as I’d like. The books and the television show don’t take themselves too seriously and will often reference other work or how ridiculous something sounds which is probably why I never feel like anyone is ever in danger. It’s still an enjoyable time to watch the characters run around in this mythical world.

5 book releases I’m pumped for in 2017

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  1. Corpselight by Angela Slatter (Out 13 July 2017)

 

Corpselight is the sequel to Vigil which was on my favourite books for 2016. Corpselight sees a very pregnant Verinity Fassbinder investigating insurance claims by Susan Beckett whose home is being inundated with mud. V’s first lead takes her to Chinatown, where she is confronted by Kitsune assassins. But when she suddenly goes into labour, it’s clear the fox spirits are not going to be helpful . . .

 

  1. Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth (Out 17 January)

 

This book technically came out in January, but I haven’t got my hands on it yet, so I’m including it on the list. I wasn’t a fan of the Divergent series but I heard an interview with Roth on the, so you want to be a writer podcast and the premise of Carve the Mark sounded really intriguing. It’s a science-fiction fantasy series where people develop a ‘currentgift’, a power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not – their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

 

  1. Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley (Out in March)

 

I can’t remember how I found this one out. It may have been a Queer YA recommendation, but I’m not 100%. Other added bonus is the title references a Crowded House song although I don’t know if that’s intentional. Fifteen-year-old Aki is bisexual although it is in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows. When Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—Aki decides she only has one shot at living an interesting life. But it’s not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you’re in love? It’s going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.

 

  1. The Things We Promise by J.C. Burke (Out March 2017)

 

The cover has a recommendation from Melina Marchetta, one of my favourite authors, so I’m trusting her judgement on this one. It’s the early 1990s and all Gemma can think about is looking perfect for her first school formal. Gemma’s brother Billy – New York’s up and coming hair and make-up artist – has made her the ultimate promise: he’s returning home especially to ‘create magic’ on her and two friends for their end-of-year formal. Gemma’s best friend, Andrea, is convinced it’ll be their moment to shine; Gemma hopes it’s the night Ralph will finally notice her.But when Billy arrives home from New York, Gemma’s life becomes complicated. Her family’s been keeping secrets; friendships are forged and broken, and suddenly the length of her formal dress is the least of her worries.

 

  1. The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz (Out July 2017)

 

This may have been another Queer YA recommendation, but I’m not sure. Mercedes Moreno can be an artist. At least, she thinks she could possibly be, actually though she was not in a position to paint anything worthwhile since her award-winning piece Meals Poisoning #1 this past year. Her insufficient inspiration could be because her Abuela is definitely lying comatose on faraway Puerto Rico following struggling a stroke. Or the actual fact that Mercedes is deeply in love with her best good friend, Victoria, but is as well afraid to admit her accurate feelings. Despite Mercedes’s imaginative block, the art starts showing up in unexpected methods. A piano shows up on her behalf front lawn one morning hours, and a mysterious brand-new neighbour invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Crimson Mangrove Estate. At the Estate, Mercedes can create with techniques she hardly ever has before. She can show her deepest secrets and look and feel secure.

If you’ve noticed a bit of a young adult and queer theme happening through the books, there is a reason for that one. It lines up to what I’m writing at the moment, but I don’t want to talk too much as it is in its very early stages. I tend to go through phases with books, I went through a self-help phase at the end of last year and earlier in 2016 I went through an urban fantasy phase. Do you favour certain genres at certain times or am I just a crazy person? Feel free to comment below!

My top 6 books for 2016

My favourite books for 2016

I probably should have put this out at the beginning of January, but I’ve been on a writing hiatus after burning myself out with NaNoWriMo.

 

  1. The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

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The 2016 Stella Award Winning novel by Charlotte Wood about Yolanda and Verla, two very different women with one thing in common – they both were splashed all over the media as part of a sex scandal and were shamed into hiding. Except instead of being sent away to a resort they are sent to the Australian Outback under prison-like conditions. The narrative is told through the perspective of Yolanda and Verla who are polar opposites of each other. Yolanda is from a working class background and allegedly slept with a group of footballers. Verla is a university educated woman and former mistress to a politician. I read this back in March, and I was immediately pissed off by the ending. It is a difficult book to read the first time, but it has a lot to say about Australian culture and the treatment of women. I am likely to reread this one a few times again.

 

  1. Vigil by Angela Slatter

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I’ve already done a detailed review of Angela Slatter’s Vigil, but I couldn’t leave it off my list. Vigil is about Verity Fassbinder trying to police the supernatural community of Brisbane called the Weyrd. The premise is hardly revolutionary, and yet the sheer mastery of skill from Slatter as a writer makes this more than your typical urban fantasy novel. Vigil is distinctly Australian without feeling forced. I found myself loving every word and Verity’s voice.

 

  1. Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward

Welcome to Orphancorp

This was the first review on my blog. I read this over a weekend and was enthralled with the idea of a world where in the near future, Australia privatises the foster and prison systems, and they are now run by a corporation. At first, the idea seemed a bit far-fetched but after watching a documentary about how the US prison systems works and the scandal at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre it suddenly seems an incredibly realistic prospect. It’s a great book with an authentic voice, and I have seen talk on Marlee’s Twitter that she is working on some sequels which I am pumped for. No word on when they will be released.

 

  1. Goodwood by Holly Throsby

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I found this book completely by accident; I was listening to an interview with Holly on the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast and was immediately enthralled about the concept of this book that I bought it straight away and read it over four days, despite being in the middle of NaNoWriMo. It is set in 1992 in a small town called Goodwood. Seventeen-year-old Jean finds $500 in a tree near a creek where all the teenagers of the town hang out. A few days later Rosie White, the coolest girl in town disappears. Then one week later, Bart McDonald goes on a fishing trip and never comes home. I grew up in a small town in Queensland in the 1990’s and 2000’s, and she captures the small town politics and culture so well without falling into stereotypes. Despite the fact Jean isn’t the main driver of events it never feels boring as we do not only see a mystery unfold, but we’re also seeing Jean deal with being on the cusp of adulthood and all that comes with it. It’s such an excellent example of Australian fiction.

 

  1. Air Awaken Series by Elise Kova

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Technically this covers five books as I read the entire series this year. I discovered Air Awakens on a podcast like Goodwood, so it is proof that author interviews do in fact sell books. I devoured the first three books in a few days as I was travelling and had the time to do so. The fourth and fifth book are a little uneven, and it feels like the story could have been told over three books instead of five, but it’s a solid YA fantasy series that I enjoyed.

 

6. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

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I actually almost missed this book as for some reason I thought I read it in 2015. But according to my blog, I did, in fact, read it this year. I really loved the concept of this book, and the writing style was enjoyable and easy to read. I don’t think it will age well as it is a reflection of our current attitudes and trends, so it will be a book that says something about a particular place and time. Which there is nothing wrong with as I’ve previously discussed. I read out a specific section to my husband about a man speaking about his last conversation on the phone with his co-workers and using corporate speak which I felt was so pointed and relevant. It’s an excellent book with a fantastic writing style and straddles the line between speculative fiction and literary fiction.

 

I realised that I completely forgot about reading some books in 2016 as I read around 50 books a year so this year I’m keeping a list and will keep you updated on what I’m reading fiction wise as you probably don’t want to hear about the self-help books I’m reading. What were your favourite books of 2016 and how did you discover them?

Discarding survival of the fittest (Part 1)

This review contains spoilers for Defying Doomsday.

What If: the world ended and you had a disability or were chronically ill.

Defying Doomsday takes this “What If” scenario and explores it across fifteen short stories. Each story does this incredibly differently.  This post explores the first four short stories and how they approach the scenario.

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The Executions:

And the Rest of Us Wait – Corinne Duyvis

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Iveta is a teenage Latvian popstar sitting a shelter waiting out the apocalypse somewhere in Europe. She also has spina bifida. It is set in the near future where she has an electronic spinal implant to be able to walk. However, when the comet finally hits the earth the electromagnetic pulse knocks out her implant.

It explores the concepts of celebrity and the media portrayal of disability. For example, Iveta has a conversation with two other young women in the shelter who ask why she isn’t on a priority ark as she’s a ‘celebrity’. She brushes it off but in her narration she mentions how the world forgot her country as they prepared for the impact. The two young women also quiz her as to why she hasn’t got her wheelchair which Iveta says she only uses for performances which gets a big reaction as if she’s a faker. Iveta quickly clarifies that she only uses her wheelchair for performances so she could save energy and not have to worry about falling over. This conversation is often typical of people when discussing disability, especially when discussing accessible parking, permits and invisible disabilities.

The plot delves into the rationing of food and supplies. This quote probably sums up the general consensus of what many people would think in such a situation:

“It’s such nonsense. Special diets? Come on. It’s the end of the damn world. If even one percent of us end up surviving I’d call it a win.”

To distract from the situation (and as her own coping mechanism), Iveta begins performing songs with other girls to uplift the mood. While she gets some pretty nasty feedback, she takes it in her stride. She soon becomes a symbol of hope for many and the shelters organisers want her to break the news to people that they will no longer be catering for specific diets. She definitely tells everyone that equality means that we all have an equal chance, not that we all get the same.

It’s certainly not a subtle message but it’s a damn important one.

To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath – Stephanie Gunn

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Georgie’s sisters, Annalee and Eliza were born with cystic fibrosis. Annalee received a lung transplant a year ago but Eliza also needs a lung transplant. The story begins months after a flu epidemic when Eliza’s black phone, the one especially for contacting the transplant hospital rings. Georgie is convinced it’s just the phone glitching but after a message is left stating there is a transplant for Eliza. Annalee and Eliza convince Georgie to leave the relative safety of their mother’s farm and go into the city to the hospital.

To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath explores the idea of survival through Georgie’s point of view rather than either of the sisters. Georgie is the one trying to keep everything together despite her own medical issues (she suffered severe burns as a child and is heavily scarred). It is an interesting dynamic that is often seen in older siblings or if one sibling is ill and the other is not.

During their journey into the city, Annalee’s body begins to reject the newly transplanted lungs and now Georgie must face the reality she may lose both of her sisters. That everything has an expiry date, including humans. Roses are used heavily as symbolism, the story starts with Georgie telling the story of a priest telling Annalee and Eliza that God put 65 roses in their chests. The ending finds them in a house with a beautiful rose garden, circling back that there may still be hope after all.

 

Something in the Rain – Seanan McGuire

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Holly and her cat Kaylee are the only survivors of toxic rain caused by melting polar ice caps. Holly has autism and mild schizophrenia and was recently pulled out of her school as she’d been mercilessly bullied. She was one of few people who saw the signs of the impending disaster and refused to go outside. It was the thing that saved her life. She has an established routine of going shopping at the local Target with a wagon, timing the storms and cleaning her house. She also still takes her medication regularly.

One day she runs into Cathy, one of the bullies from her school. Cathy is the first survivor Holly has met but she’s not very impressed with this turn of events. Cathy follows Holly home but immediately calls her weird, spaz, scitzo and insults Kaylee the cat. Cathy and Holly try to get along for a few days but Cathy commits the ultimate sin by letting out Kaylee. Holly insists she find the cat and Cathy gets her comeuppance.

This was one of my favourite stories in Defying Doomsday as it’s the ultimate revenge fantasy and I found Holly to be such a great character whose autism and narration is subtly inserted by the way she describes things and how she speaks to Cathy. Her survival was due to the unique way she saw the world which I really enjoyed.

 

Did We Break the End of the World? – Tansy Rayner Roberts

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Jin and Aisha are partners in crime and in silence. Jin is deaf and Aisha doesn’t speak. Together they move through houses as scavengers. Jin specialises in scavenging batteries, especially since he only has a limited supply for his hearing aid. The partnership between Jin and Aisha and how they communicate via basic sign language and body language is interested to read and gives a unique perspective on showing not telling.

On a routine scavenge, Jin and Aisha find graffiti in the house they are looting stating “Did we break the end of the world?” They both have been seeing this particular line popping up all over the city but neither can work out what it means.

They run into a teenage boy called Billy who specialises in scavenging art supplies. Jin is suspicious of Billy but also incredibly attracted to him.

As the story unfolds, it is revealed that the only survivors are teenagers as the suburb they were living in was specifically for foster children and robotic foster parents. Billy is the one painting “did we break the end of the world?” everywhere and he has a theory, that they’re part of some strange experiment and ‘the pulse’ was orchestrated by whomever was running the experiment to close it down. Except they survive and start their own version of society.

The ending doesn’t actually confirm if said conspiracy theory is true as the plot isn’t overly important as the characters in this story. Jin and Billy develop a romance that seems realistic and isn’t focused on either the fact that Billy is deaf or the fact they’re both boys. Kudos to Tansy Rayner Roberts for portraying a real relationship without harping on those two parts. I really enjoyed this story and I’ve got a secret hope that these characters will be revisited at a later date.

 

What do you think about the first for executions of this What If Scenario? Do you think that traditionally survival and post-apocalyptic stories over favour survival of the fitness rather than luck? Would you survive the apocalypse? Start a conversation below or share on social media.

Is this Australia’s best YA novel?

As much as I love Looking for Alibrandi, On the Jellicoe Road is Melina Marchetta’s magnum opus.

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What If: a young woman abandoned by her mother as a child starts examining her past.

 

The Execution:

 

Seventeen year old Taylor Markham is a student at the Jellicoe School, a state run boarding school. Her past is a mystery she tries to unravel. All she knows is she was abandoned by her mother at eleven years old at the 7/11 outside Jellicoe. Then only a few minutes later she was found by Hannah, who lives at the Jellicoe School. She feels like Hannah knows something about her past and her mother but won’t tell her.

 

Thrown in a bunch of sub plots that all interconnect such as the wars between the school, the townies and the cadets, a serial killer, Hannah’s manuscript and a will they won’t they romance and it all combines to make such a richly layered work.

 

This story is the type of book you’re not really sure about when you first read it and then you get to the end and realise it all connects. Then you want to go back and read it again with a more critical eye.

 

I have read this book many times and it’s the execution that keeps me going back. The first read you’re spending so much time trying to figure out how it all connects but the second read you realise how multilayered and rich all the characters are.

 

 

Setting:

 

The majority of the story is set in and around the Jellicoe School which is roughly located a few hours from Sydney. Despite Jellicoe being entirely fictional, Marchetta paints the picture of the school and the surrounds with such loving language. The Prayer Tree, Hannah’s House, the Jellicoe Road, the School and the town felt like real living places rather than just a backdrop. The setting is critically important which is why the setting is the title. The word pictures to paint the description of Jellicoe make it seem like a dream like place with a soporific quality.

 

“It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-La.”

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Characters:

 

Marchetta does characters well. They feel like people you’d meet in the street, that you’d want to be friends with. One of the reasons I re-read the story so much is that I love the characters. Even the small ones like Santangelo’s mother who only gets like two scenes in the entire novel. Those two scenes make me want to hear an entire story about her.

 

Main Characters:

 

Taylor Markham is the narrator and protagonist of the story. Her voice is incredibly strong and distinct but also works as an unreliable narrator due to the trauma of her early childhood. How Taylor describes the other characters makes them feel like living breathing people, even the very minor characters. The book is obviously set in Australia and the characters are Australian but it doesn’t feel heavy handed or jarring.

 

Jonah Griggs is the antagonist of the story. He is the leader of the army cadets from Sydney that come to Jellicoe every summer to camp. He comes across as gruff and hard but like Taylor has had a life filled with grief. He is incredibly strong and has fun antagonising the students of Jellicoe as part of the ‘war’.

 

Chaz Santangelo is the leader of the Townies, the teens who live in Jellicoe. He is of Aboriginal and Italian descent and his parents are the Mayor and the Chief of Police respectively. He has the type of confident that comes from living in a small close knit community and is very sure of himself. However, it has it downsides such as getting thrown into the watch house by your dad for causing a fight. He and Raffy have crazy sexual tension although he does develop a nice bro-mance with Jonah as the story goes on.

 

Raffy is a townie but goes to the Jellicoe School as her parents are teachers at the Jellicoe high school. She has known Chaz since she was a child and the familiarity with each other’s history makes for great interest. Her mothering nature clashes with Taylor’s fierce independent nature but she’s the closest friend Taylor has.

 

Hannah is the closest thing Taylor has to family yet they have a distant relationship as Taylor senses Hannah knows the answers to her deepest darkest questions about her mother and her father. Hannah’s absence is one of the main drivers of the story. She is also the author of the parallel story told about the young people living in Jellicoe in the 1980’s that Taylor reads.

 

The Brigadier is the mysterious presence that found Taylor and Jonah when they ran away years ago. Taylor believes he is connected to a series of disappearances that have been happening around Jellicoe for the last decade.

 

 

Themes:

 

Identity:

 

Taylor believes she doesn’t know who she is as she has little connection or memory to her past. This is reinforced by Raffy and Santangelo’s relationship that is based on shared history having grown up together in a small town. She feels disconnected from everyone and doesn’t feel she fits in despite being the leader of the School.

 

Family:

 

Taylor’s lack of family is such a strong theme throughout the book however she realises she has an unconventional family in the students of the school and in Hannah. The contrast to Taylor and Jonah’s experience of families to Raffy’s and Santangelo’s close knit families shows the wide spectrum of how families operate.

 

Friendship:

Hannah’s manuscript about the five young people living in Jellicoe serves as a parallel story to the main storyline. The theme of friendship, family and identity are echoed in this story within the story. Marchetta shows the idealistic friendships of youth so well in both the main storyline and the story within the story.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

Melina Marchetta is best known for her 1992 young adult smash hit Looking for Alibrandi. She is incredibly talented at writing compelling characters that you want to read over and over. As much as I love Looking for Alibrandi, On the Jellicoe Road is Melina Marchetta’s magnum opus. The layers of character, setting and subplots make it the type of book you’ll read over and over.

 

About the Book:

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta won the US Printz Award and was shortlisted for the ABIA Awards and the Queensland Premier’s Awards.

 

Agree? Disagree? Other thoughts? Start a conversation by commenting below or sharing on social media.

 

The horrifying future of Australia’s foster care system

Welcome to Orphancorp is a great young adult read touching on a number of issues with a unique voice. Set in a dystopian near future Australia where the foster care and prison systems have been given to a private corporation, it explores the themes of sexuality, institutional abuse and race with sensitivity and wit.

Welcome to Orphancorp

This review/analysis contains mild spoilers for Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward.

 

What If:

Australia outsourced the role of providing foster care and prisons to a for profit corporation.

 

The Execution:

The story is told through the perspective of 17-year-old Mirii. She is one week shy of her 18th birthday and escaping the Orphancorp system. The story starts when she is transferred into a new facility. This gives us the perspective that even though she is seasoned in the system that it’s still full of new characters. If she is good she will be released and if she misbehaves she will ended up in a Prisoncorp.

 

This delicate balance between her rebellious nature and the opportunity to escape the system that has been repressing her as a child is the main internal struggle for Mirii.

 

Characters:

Miriiyanan Mahoney (known as Mirii) is the narrator of Welcome to Orphancorp. She is a week off being eighteen and has been in the system for years. She is a wiz at gadgets and tattoos. Despite being the narrator you don’t a lot of insight into her past, just glimpses such as memories of her parents. She’s more interested in telling you how she knows the system and how she survives which can be interpreted as a defence mechanism for the horrifying life she’s led so far. She comes across as incredibly intelligent, sarcastic and insightful. She still manages to make meaningful connections with others in the house, knowing the relationships she makes could be pulled apart at any time.

 

There are numerous characters who show up only for a few moments which gives the realistic feeling of being in a large institution but is sometimes difficult to keep track of who’s who. It also feels like no one is truly fleshed out as a character other than Mirii as she doesn’t get time to get to know her roommates other than superficially. It does occasionally feel like some characters served to move the plot along such as the tech wiz at the very end.

 

The secondary characters that stood out:

 

Cam works with Mirii in the workshop as her runner. He is significantly younger than her and she is incredibly hostile to him at first. She sees the younger children as trouble. She warms up to Cam and advises him to go to school so he can at least have some smarts about him when he gets out.

 

Freya is set up as the antagonist early on in the story when Mirii catches her as she’s trying to escape. Despite Freya causing issues for Mirii, ultimately she isn’t the main antagonist of the story. She’s just like Mirii – trying to survive and escape the system. The system itself is the ultimate antagonist and the aunts and uncles serve it.

 

Setting:

The entire story is set within Verity House which is described as “a big grey box straddling an entire city block.” The technology and slang imply it is set in a not-to-distant future but we don’t get much of an outline about how updated technology is other than what serves the story. The technology is almost an afterthought and merely a plot device, the strength in the story doesn’t come from the setting or the technology but rather the characters themselves.

 

Themes:

 

Sexuality

Mirii never states she’s bisexual but early on she says “I can’t tell if they’re male or female, but it doesn’t matter because sweet babes need no gender.” The use of sexuality as another means to survive the system is incorporated seamlessly into the narrative and there are never any “ick” moments, despite the orgy that happens halfway through.

 

Privatisation of State Services

The concept of privatising the foster care and prison system seem farfetched in the current Australian system.  On closer inspection of our history as well as the American trend to farm out services previously provided by the state to corporations, it suddenly isn’t a huge leap of the imagination.

 

The business model plays on current trends in the foster care and prison system. Statistically, a ward of the state is more likely to not complete education, have unplanned pregnancies, end up in prison or experience mental illness. The fact that a corporation has decided to use this to gain profit is ingenious and horrifying at the same time.

 

Abuse and Neglect in Institutions

The physical, emotional and sexual abuse of institutions is touched upon in the delivery of Mirii’s narration as well as how the characters interact with each other. The reliance on sexual intimacy to replace the emotional support given by parents is what begins the orgy scene. It feels like a natural by-product of the environment. There is no outright depiction of sexual abuse but it is stated that the uncles have inappropriate relationships with girls in exchanges for drugs and protection. The physical abuse is the only abuse that is outright depicted with Mirii in starting the story in shackles and a gag.

 

Race:

Race is lightly touched upon in the story. Mirii believes she is Indigenous as her name means shooting star in Gamilaraay but she does concede she only knows this because she looked it up. Otherwise, she has no connection to her culture other than her name and a brief memory of a dark skinned woman she believes was her mother.. She scolds a younger resident on using derogatory terms towards Aboriginal people. It isn’t a major component of the story but it feels right to be in there due to the over-representation of Indigenous children currently in the foster care and prison systems.

 

Final Thoughts:

Welcome to Orphancorp is a great young adult read touching on a number of issues with a unique voice. Set in a dystopian near future Australia where the foster care and prison systems have been given to a private corporation, it explores the themes of sexuality, institutional abuse and race with sensitivity and wit. The restricted viewpoint of Mirii gives readers a glimpse into the results of a terrifying future for disadvantaged young people but also holding a mirror to current issues within the system. It is a solid debut novella from Marlee Jane Ward.

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward won Seizure’s Viva La Novella 3 and the 2016 Victorian Premiers Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction. It was shortlisted for the NSW Premiers Award, Aurealis Award and the Norma K Hemming Award. It is available from Seizure, Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Gleebooks and Readings.

 

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