The best books for an introduction to Aotearoa New Zealand's YA writers (IMO)

Who am I?

I love Aotearoa New Zealand books! Our writers are brave, feisty, original - and living in ‘the land of the long white cloud’ at the bottom of the globe gives us a unique take on the world that permeates through everything we write. But we struggle to get our voices heard internationally, so far from the rest of you! This is your chance to push out your boundaries and explore stories that derive from a culture very different from your own, while sharing the same human emotions that bring us all together. As one of these writers, I challenge you to check us out – you won’t be disappointed!

I wrote...

Singing Home The Whale

By Mandy Hager,

Book cover of Singing Home The Whale

What is my book about?

The extraordinary story of how the arrival of a baby orca whale threatens to tear apart a fishing community and forever changes the life of the boy who finds it.

Will Jackson is hiding out, a city boy reluctantly staying with his uncle in small town New Zealand while he struggles to recover from a brutal attack and the aftermath of a humiliating Youtube clip gone viral. After he discovers a young abandoned orca his life is further thrown into chaos when he rallies to help protect it against hostile locals. The boy and whale develop a unique bond, forged by Will’s love of singing. An exciting plot-driven story full of drama, tension, and romance, this magical book captures both heart and mind from start to finish.

The books I picked & why

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By Elizabeth Knox,

Book cover of Dreamhunter

Why this book?

Elizabeth Knox is a world-class writer with an exceptional imagination and her fantasy novel, Dreamhunter, is a great introduction to her work. Set in an alternative past, dreamhunters harvest dreams which are transmitted to the public for entertainment and therapy – or worse. Fifteen-year-old Laura Hame must enter The Place of Dreams to uncover what happened to her missing dreamhunter father and in the process reveals how the government has used dreams to control an ever-growing population of convicts and political dissenters. Those who love Philip Pullman or Garth Nix won’t be disappointed.

The Catalogue of the Universe

By Margaret Mahy,

Book cover of The Catalogue of the Universe

Why this book?

Perhaps our greatest writer for children and young adult fiction, two-time Carnegie Medal winner Margaret Mahy, this book won the 2005 Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association. Essentially it’s a love story, but not as you’ve ever experienced it before. It’s brainy, surprising, endearing, and really, really worth a read!  

Under the Mountain

By Maurice Gee,

Book cover of Under the Mountain

Why this book?

This book for younger YA’s has some of the creepiest villains you’ll ever meet and knuckle-biting tension as the heroes are chased by the evil Wilberforces, slug-like shapeshifters who live under Auckland’s extinct volcanoes. Their goal is the destruction of the world and only red-haired twins Rachel and Theo Matheson can stop them, with the help of the strange Mr. Jones, who helps the twins unleash their supernatural power.

The Raging Quiet

By Sherryl Jordan,

Book cover of The Raging Quiet

Why this book?

A writer of predominantly fantasy and historical fiction, Sheryl Jordan’s books have heart and soul. The Raging Quiet, a fantasy novel, introduces us to outsider Marnie, a young widow living in an isolated medieval community. Her only friends are a priest and a weird, "mad" youth called Raven, who she realizes is not mad at all, but deaf. When she teaches him "hand words" they are both suspected of witchcraft and find themselves under attack. It’s a book that pierces your heart and stays with you for a long time afterward. 

I Am Not Esther (The Esther Series)

By Fleur Beale,

Book cover of I Am Not Esther (The Esther Series)

Why this book?

This gripping psychological thriller centers around a girl who is caught up in a religious cult, her name changed and all her supports ripped away. How will she survive this? Will she be able to escape? Still in print after 20 years, this book won the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-loved Book 2009.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in New Zealand, love, and dreams?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about New Zealand, love, and dreams.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Daughter of Gloriavale, The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa, and Ursa if you like this list.