Days Like This News and Reviews

It’s been interesting reading the reviews of Days Like This – please have a look at my “Days Like This News” post for details, including a reading and some thought-provoking essays and discussions about young adult dystopia. 

Here are some more magazine and newspaper reviews: 

Magpies’ reviewer Fran Knight writes in the September issues (Magpies Volume 26, Issue 4, September 2011) that Days Like This is “A gripping tale, fast and action-packed, the story will drag its readers along, with interesting and lively characters, and a most credible setting. 

“Twins, Lily and Daniel and aware that their parents are changing. No longer the loving family they once were, they are harsher, and surprisingly, looking younger. The twins grudgingly take the pills handed out by the Blacktroopers, who come into their home each week, and put up with the visits of slimy Max, an old friend of their father’s. But both are questioning. They want to know why they can no longer go outside, why they are confined to education via the computer at set times of the day, why there is a wall dividing them from the others, why they have such ferocious headaches and why it no longer rains. They have heard that teens are harvested, and Daniel had heard about something called ‘serum enhancement’ but neither can find out what these words mean. When Dan’s questioning starts to cause embarrassment for their parents, he disappears, and when Lily asks where he is, she has a home detention bracelet put around her wrist, which is cruelly activated if she ventures outside. Her younger sister, Alice, seems to have better treatment and appears to be being groomed for something else.

“A grim society, post global warming, is represented in this powerful dystopian story. Water is drawn up from beneath the earth and showers the house and garden several times a month, but only for those rich enough to be protected by the Wall. The landscape beyond the Wall is hot, empty, dried up and scarred. Saddled with her bracelet, Lily knows that she will soon disappear like Dan, and so takes the chance to run. Once outside, she is rescued by a subversive group from over the Wall, but she is recaptured and finds out for herself what harvesting entails.

“A gripping tale, fast and action-packed, the story will drag its readers along, with interesting and lively characters, and a most credible setting. The ideas created in the story, a nasty future where the adults choose longevity and youthfulness, of a future society ruled by fear and oppression, are not new, but in this story are given an amazing tweak that is quite frightening. The notion that parents will willingly sacrifice their children to remain young themselves is particularly thought provoking and although the story slows a little in the middle, it picks up with a ferocity when Lily and her new friends return to Sydney to find Alice, and are overwhelmed by a tsunami. Readers will stick with it to find out what happens.”

http://www.magpies.net.au/

 The October, 2011 issue of Dolly writes: “Something suss is going on in Lily’s town. Her parents are acting odd and the mysterious “Committee” is forcing her and her brother Daniel to stay inside. When Daniel goes missing, Lily knows she needs to escape or she’ll be next. If you liked the Tomorrow, When The War Began series, you’ll love this read.”

 The Saturday Age in their Off The Shelf Young Adult reads section of September 13, 2011, says that Days Like This is written “with conviction and clarity”.

 “Alison Stewart has created a dystopian world where global warming has reached a critical point and resources such as water are the preserve of a privileged few who live inside a walled city on Sydney’s north shore. Ruled by the anonymous Central Governing Committee, the people inside the wall are controlled by a special drug that gives them the appearance of eternal youth. The drug is made from the body fluids of young people who are literally harvested to keep the old looking good. At the same time, parents who participate in this program lose their love for and attachment to their children. It may be a particularly bald analogy but Stewart goes straight to the heart of global warming. Your parents, she is saying, are sucking you dry, dear ones. To perpetuate their own lives, they are sacrificing your future. The heroine of Days Like This is 17-year-old Lily, who repeatedly tries to break out of the prison of her parents’ house and eventually joins a gang of young people trying to resist the inhumane committee. At the same time, everyone young and old are prey to the violent storms and tsunamis of the apocalyptic age in which they are living. Stewart has written seven books for young people and two adult novels so it is a little ironic that Days Like This was a finalist in the highly competitive, 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award – many punters think she’s already well and truly arrived. Written with conviction and clarity, Days Like This is not particularly subtle but it does make a point.”

Emmanuel Ordillo writes in The Sun-Herald Books pages of October 16: “It’s rare to find a dystopian novel set in Sydney – in an age when parents don’t trust kids … who are kept as prisoners in their own homes. Lily and her brother Daniel start to question the committee that enforces the laws and, as tension starts to build, Daniel goes missing. Knowing she is next, Lily escapes but the truth she finds out there is worse than anything she could have imagined. Younger readers will love the thrills and action, while older readers will note references to actual past events. A good read for all ages.”

Toni Whitmont, Editor-in-Chief at Booktopia writes in her August Booktopia Buzz newsletter: “A local book, although with a huge overseas following already, this story presents a dystopian view of Sydney in a world where global warming has really taken over.”

Elizabeth Braithwaite reviews Days Like This in the Summer 2011 Viewpoint (vol 19 no 4). Elizabeth highlights the issues that I was trying to explore in the book, issues I hope that readers might continue to consider.

“The novel raises a variety of questions that would make for interesting debate,” writes Elizabeth. “How far, and how predictably, does addiction affect behaviour? Are there emotions or effects that could override fear and craving? Days Like This also poses a number of questions crucial in the discussion about climate change and global warming. What should be done with scarce resources? Who should be given access to these resources and how should that decision be made? The debates that the cavern people have about what to do with people who come to their community in need, but who may be a threat to it are well done. The decisions that are made skilfully negotiate the moral difficulties presented.

“The title of the novel is a master stroke, because it invites the reader to think what ‘Days Like This’ means. To what does the word ‘this’ refer? Is it days like the reader currently has or, as the blurb suggests, the very different sort of ‘Days Like This’ for Lily and her contemporaries? This clever ambiguity positions the reader to consider his or her own time and what might be done in contemporary ‘Days Like This’ to stop the disaster in the text, and potential resultant dystopias, from becoming reality.”

http://www.viewpointmagazine.com.au/

I’m also including a couple of the 2010 YA Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award judges’ reviews. I then worked with Penguin Australia editor Jeanmarie Morosin and Jane Godwin, Publisher, Books for Children and Young Adults at Penguin to edit Days Like This:

Amy Berkower, literary agent and President of Writers House LLC:

“The popularity of dystopian fiction has been attributed to the opportunity it gives young adults to appreciate the world they live in now in contrast to the dark and controlled world they might inhabit in the future. If this is true, Days Like This has the potential to attract a large audience.

The walled-in city of Sydney, Australia, has been rendered virtually uninhabitable by global warming. 16-year-old Lily mourns the texture and freedom of her life before the walls went up, when her parents were still affectionate and she had the companionship of her schoolmates, who are now taught exclusively on screens that expose them to only what the government wants. Isolated and lonely, Lily now lives in a regulated world, where water is scarce and people who are no longer useful to society are discarded to fend for themselves outside the walls.

As her 17th birthday approaches, Lily senses that she will soon be sharing the fate of her older brother, Daniel, who inexplicably vanishes one afternoon. Fearing for her own safety as well as that of her 12-year-old sister, Alice, Lily tries unsuccessfully to escape. Just as she’s given up all hope of ever seeing her brother again, Lily is rescued by a group of renegades who, contrary to government propaganda, have managed to live a more humane and civilized life on the other side of the walled city.

Exceptional novels like The Hunger Games and Life as We Knew It have set the bar for dystopian fiction extraordinarily high. Days Like This is a roller coaster of a novel with a feisty heroine and a compelling plot that, despite some disjointing time shifts from past to present, reaches the bar but doesn’t surpass it.”

Ben Schrank, President and Publisher, Razorbill, Penguin Young Readers at Penguin, USA:

“In this haunting apocalyptic story set in a version of Sydney, Australia, walls have been erected to separate the Deserving from the Forgotten. 16-year-old Lily is traumatized by this joyless society. She remembers the old times and barely recognizes her family anymore. The streets echo with cries, and children are not allowed out-of-doors and are forced to wear metal bracelets around their wrists. Lily, an inquisitive skeptic, has gathered that in this new world parents no longer love their children. They give them away to the rulers–but why? This happens to her 17-year-old brother, Daniel, and Lily realizes she must escape before it’s her turn.

The story is cleanly and appealingly written. Thankfully, it is not larded with apocalyptic jargon, but instead everything feels eerily familiar. The pace slows down when Lily escapes and wanders outdoors, reviewing her memories over the last few years, and then springs to life when she comes across a colony of children who have also escaped the walled city. The story wraps up with an electrifying action-packed conclusion. More of these late dynamics throughout, as well as a bit more dialogue, would really help what is already a fairly riveting novel.”

Sarah Dessen, writer:

“Lily, the narrator of this futuristic thriller, begins her 16th year a prisoner in her own home. A native of Sydney, she has been kept inside by her parents ever since teen violence caused the government to lock down all adolescents and build walls around the city. Climate changes have made water scarce, provided only by a manufactured system, and society has been divided to the haves, have-nots, and have-nothings. Even more mysterious is the sudden rejuvenation of the adults in the world, all growing younger as the children and teens disappear. When her brother, Daniel, suddenly vanishes and her parents grow even more distant and strict, Lily begins to fear for her own future. When it becomes clear her concern is valid, she begins a fight not only for her youth, but for youth everywhere.

This is a wild ride of a novel, heavy on action and suspense, and Lily’s narration brings to life the fearful, deserted world she has seen grow up all around her. Stewart does well contrasting the peaceful past with this violent present, and her narrator’s memories of her family, as it once was, are some of the strongest writing in the book. A bit less defined are the supporting characters, especially the adults, and the reader occasionally wishes there was a bit more description and dialogue amid all the running, fighting and chaos. In the end, however, this is a unique take on the fountain of youth that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the last page.”

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About alisonstewartwriter

Alison is a writer, journalist and travel writer, born in South Africa, now living in Australia. She has had nine books published - two books for adults and seven for young people. Four of them have been translated into Italian, Danish, Dutch and Thai. Her latest project, Cold Stone Soup, an unpublished memoir about growing up under apartheid and migrating to Australia has won the FAW 2013 National Literary Awards (Jim Hamilton Award for a non-fiction manuscript). Cold Stone Soup was also runner-up in the 2010 Penguin/Varuna Scholarship. Her first book for adults, Born Into the Country (Justified Press 1988, South Africa) was shortlisted for the 1987 AA Mutual Life Vita Young Writers’ Award. Heinemann Australia published her next adult novel, Bitterbloom in 1991. Her YA novel, The Wishing Moon was shortlisted for the 1995 Australian Multicultural Children’s Award and was a 1995 Children’s Book Council Notable book. Her YA dystopia, Days Like This, published by Penguin Australia was a finalist in the inaugural 2010 Amazon/Penguin Breakthrough Novel Award in the YA category. Alison worked for years as a news and feature journalist. She is now a regular travel writer for The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age and online Fairfax Media publications.
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2 Responses to Days Like This News and Reviews

  1. Theresa Miller says:

    I was appalled by this book – that my 12 year old daughter was exposed to a storyline that had a paedophile character who raped at least two 13 year old girls until they became pregnant; with their parents consent (regardless of any excuses they were addicted it is a disgraceful idea to include in a kids book). And there was no bringing him to justice, or constructive dialogue about how to help victims like that. It was a sickening story. And I usually enjoy dystopian novels. If ever I was going to argue for labelling books with warnings I would be citing this book as a prime example of one that needed it.

    Like

    • Hi Theresa,
      Thank you for writing to me. I understand that you are upset, however I have some very real concerns about the issues you raise and so I am going to answer you at length.
      I am impressed that your daughter enthusiastically recommended my book to you, and hope that she will not be discouraged from discussing books and reading with you.
      The segment of the book which deals with the sexual abuse of minors purposely has no graphic references because of the obvious sensitivity of the subject matter. The inference was subtle (and this was consciously done in consultation with the publisher, Penguin). However, I believe that this segment was necessary for the purpose of the book, which is to build a world where people have forgotten what parental and community responsibility entails; and how their greed and focus on materialism and individualism has rendered many, but not all, less than human.

      My intention with Days Like This (apart from trying to write a compelling story) was to try and challenge young readers to think about what we value. Is it a sense of historic and literal place, the natural environment and the dignity of the individual or is it a world that satisfies us only materially? I hoped readers might think about the kind of world we are creating. This is common to dystopian fiction and one I believe that drives its popularity with young people. They can examine difficult issues safely and perhaps think about how they can contribute as they grow into positions of authority to create a better, more inclusive world.

      You say your daughter did not comprehend that “Max repeatedly raped at least two girls etc” and yet you drew her attention to this specifically. Again, I wish you had rather discussed with her the themes of the book – which among others are, as one review (by a secondary school librarian, Mandy Kilpatrick) puts it: “Corruption in society, powerlessness of teens and people wanting to ‘play God’ with science. This coupled with the setting of a dying world (post global warming) mean that there are many teaching opportunities contained within this text.”

      From my point of view, I believe discussion of our value system which the book raises would be far more useful than a narrow focus on a highly negative element. And I am disappointed that you have not read the book as it is intended, which is actually an affirmation of life, love, and community. In fact it is not meant to be a bleak novel but one of hope and redemption. Despite the confronting disintegration of a familiar world, I hope it tells us that there is room for a compassionate society that values decency and integrity and carries a profound belief in peoples’ essential humanity.

      Days Like This insists that there is a place for those, both young and old, who cannot embrace the values of the new world. There is room in society for compassion and trust and for honouring the natural progression of life to death. Lily must find this place but her search will require courage and a profound belief in the decency of human nature.
      Again as Mandy Kilpatrick writes: “Lily’s story of betrayal, heartbreak and redemption, her amazing courage, survival instinct and compassion make her a character that young adults will want to relate to.”

      Perhaps that is what your daughter liked about the book. It is wonderful that she did not focus on the grim and depressing building blocks of the novel but rather “enthusiastically recommended” it.

      I am also a little taken aback that you believe the book should be banned or carry a warning. As a parent I’m sure you recognise that this would only encourage young readers to go looking for the offending segment rather than focusing on the book as a whole and its ultimately life-affirming message.

      Finally, we live in a highly confronting world and I think that young readers, who use the internet, watch the television news and discuss issues with friends are well aware of this. We would all love to wrap our children in cotton wool but it is impossible. Of course you are within your rights to censor what your child reads and, probably far more importantly, accesses online.

      From a reading point of view however, I’m afraid you would have to include the most popular young adult dystopian series: The Hunger Games. If you read it literally rather than looking at Suzanne Collins’s intentions, you could not possibly find the central tenet of the book acceptable for young readers – the deliberate and violent exploitation of young people, often younger than ten, as TV entertainment as they are forced to hunt and brutally kill one another in an arena. Shocking stuff indeed.

      I probably won’t change your mind Theresa, as I recognise and respect the depth of your feelings but I hope you will at least consider what I have written, maybe even discuss it with your daughter.

      May I leave you with the following – Chloe Mauger’s review of Days Like This in the November 1, 2011 issue of Reading Time (the quarterly journal published by the Children’s Book Council of Australia):
      “Set in a dystopian future after global warming has led to the surviving wealthy families of Sydney being ‘safe’ enclosed behind a huge wall, while outcasts beyond the wall are presumably long dead. Lily, twin brother Daniel and younger sister Alice live a rigidly proscribed life with their strangely cold and aloof parents, never allowed to leave the house and forced to take strictly monitored medication during the weekly visit of the fearsome Blacktroopers. When Daniel, suffering from disabling migraines, suddenly disappears one night, Lily knows she must somehow escape before something terrible happens to her, too.
      “This riveting, strong, fast-paced novel is set in a nightmarish world where it is extremely dangerous to be young. The inventive plot is peopled by interesting characters who face environmental, physical, and psychological challenges in a very unsafe and unpredictable world. As well as being an un-put-downable read, this novel belongs with other thought-provoking dystopian novels such as Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World or more recently, Gillian Rubinstein’s Terrafarma and so on, raising many philosophical and moral questions for discussion by secondary readers. Recommended.”

      Like

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