Reading Is Good For You

Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life

So you’ve exhausted your supply of Melina Marchetta titles . . .

. . . but you’re still in the mood for something like Finnikin of the Rock, or The Piper’s Son, or Jellicoe Road? Well, you’ve come to the right place because today I’m going to hook you up.

Let me tell you, it was not an easy matter trying to find comparable books, as Ms. Marchetta has quite an exceptional writing talent, but I did my best to find titles that embody the traits that I find so appealing in her work.

Fantasy: If you are in the mood for something similar to The Lumatere Chronicles (i.e. Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles).

Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings): If anyone can rival Melina Marchetta in terms of awesomeness, it’s this lady right here. Though they write different sorts of fantasy stories, the same great character development, witty dialogue, and epic world-building are present in both authors’ works. What I appreciate about Ms. Turner is that she doesn’t hold your hand and treat you like an idiot by pointing out important plot points with giant neon signs, but expects you to figure things out for yourself. You might be confused at first, but later on down the road when things are revealed, you’ll be all “I see what she did there.”

The Scorpio Races by Maggie StiefvaterI may have been iffy with Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, but with its elegant prose this book made me a true believer. Puck Connolly is a strong female character, just like so many of Melina Marchetta’s leading ladies, and she is perfectly complimented by the quiet, mysterious, intensely passionate Sean Kendrick. Together they made as swoonworthy a pair as any that Ms. Marchetta has put together. And just like with the nations of Skuldenore, the island of Thisbe is as fully realized a character as any of its human counterparts. Plus, you can’t go wrong with man-eating horses. Just sayin’.

Chime by Franny BillingsleyThere’s not a lot of middle ground as far as this book is concerned — readers either love it or hate it — but I firmly count myself in the love camp if only for the sweet, yet sizzling romance between Briony and Eldric. They’ve been officially entered into my favorite literary couples hall of fame along with pretty much every couple Ms. Marchetta has ever created, so you know they must be something special. And if that wasn’t enough to tempt you, perhaps the beautiful, almost poetic writing style will.

The Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss: Sometimes you’re in the mood for an epic, dramatic, angsty fantasy series with a massive cast of characters, minus the cardboard cut-out variety if you please (sound like a certain duology, soon to be trilogy, with which we are all familiar, eh?). If that is the case, then this pair of books from Patrick Rothfuss will be right up your alley. Bonus factor: Just like Finnikin and Froi, these are great big books for you to sink your teeth into. Perfect to keep you in reading material for however long you wish to savor them.

Contemporary: If Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, Jellicoe Road, or The Piper’s Son are more your flavor.

Graffiti Moon by Cath CrowleyClearly three readings  in less than a month is a testament to how much I love this book and how amazing it is (and how quickly you need to get it in your hands). Graffiti Moon has everything I love in Melina Marchetta book: characters with whom I want to be best friends, the sweet possibility of romance, humor, snappy dialogue, and the desire to start over at the beginning once I’ve reached the end. Plus, Ms. Marchetta’s love for Graffiti Moon can be found blurbed on its back cover for all the world to see, so you know it has to be worth giving it a go. Bonus: art (of the graffiti and glassblowing variety)! Poetry, too, but not the cheesy sort. The cool kind. And Melbourne!

Raw Blue by Kristy Eagar: Just like Ms. Marchetta, Kristy Eagar is a pro at presenting realistically broken characters and bringing them to a point of healing and redemption. I cannot stress the word realistically enough, as so many times I find myself rolling my eyes at the grieving characters in some books because their actions seem so fake (and that’s not just me being mean and cold-hearted). I’ve never been in Carly’s situation before, but Ms. Eagar was successful in getting me to sympathize with what she was going through. The only thing I found that was lacking was a bit of humor to make the dark tone of the novel easier to bear as Melina Marchetta has done with some of her heavier work, but that’s a minor grievance. Bonus: surfing! Plus, if you find yourself more on the adult end of the spectrum of YA lit readers, you’ll appreciate the Carly’s relationship with Ryan. Don’t mean for this to sound pervy or anything, but daaaaaang, the swoon factor was off the charts.

Underdogs trilogy by Markus Zuzak (Underdog, Fight Ruben Wolfe, and Getting the Girl): Family seems to be a big deal in Melina Marchetta books, something they share with Markus Zusak’s earliest work. I love the dynamic between the  Wolfe siblings and Cameron especially had my heart in the palm of his hand, bless his heart. This trio might not be as polished as some of Zusak’s later work, but I think they have the same heart and will resonate with fans of The Messenger and The Book Thief. The Sydney setting also takes an active role in these books, just as it does with all of Ms. Marchetta’s contemporary work.

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg SloanI’m going to be honest, y’all, it’s been a while since I’ve read this one, but I do remember two things: characters are key and I loved it. I’ll leave you with this quote from my review:

In Emily, Sam and Riddle, she’s lovingly crafted a set of characters who are faced with very real, very serious situations, and they don’t come away unscathed. This is a story of survival, that of broken homes and broken hearts and the elements, but it’s also a lovely story of the salvation we can offer others simply by showing that we’ll be there for them and that we care.

These May Be a Stretch, But Just Go With It

Divergent by Veronica RothSo a piece of dystopian fiction is not exactly like anything Ms. Marchetta has published, but Divergent does share a number of positive traits with her work. Just like pretty much everything Melina Marchetta has put out, this book is worthy of multiple re-reads (seriously, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read this bad boy). The romance between Tris and Four (it’s a nickname-don’t judge) is my favorite sort — a partnership between two equals with just the right amount of tension, and a decided lack of mushiness. Four even kind of reminds me of Jonah Griggs with his forthrightness, strength,  and the way he supports and looks after Tris without smothering her. A true strong female character in Tris rounds out the awesomeness of this book nicely. Bonus: Chicago (though not quite like the Chicago you might know and love).

Where Things Come Back by John Corey WhaleySo you know how Jellicoe Road had two seemingly unrelated storylines going on? So does Where Things Come Back! Remember how much that confused the crap out of you until you finally figured out how they were connected and then you loved the book and thought the whole thing was pretty clever?  Where Things Come Back produced that same sort of reaction in me, so if you loved Jellicoe Road, give this one a go. Bonus: brothers who love each other. Dom and Joe would approve.

Do you think I satisfied the needs of the masses? Are there other titles you would have included on this list? Sound off in the comments section below.


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