Tag Archives: penguin random house

Poetry Shelf New Books: Harriet Allan celebrates Pamela Morrow’s Hello Strange (YA novel)



Hello Strange.jpg


Hello Strange by Pamela Morrow (Penguin Random House)


This month this fabulous young adult novel hits the virtual shelves, and you can access a copy through numerous channels outlined here.

As soon as bookshops open again, you can of course also purchase physical copies, and I urge you to do so, not just because this is a high-paced, funny, stimulating, thought-provoking and entertaining read, with the added bonus of a lively layout, but also because both the author and the shops need all your support given the challenging timing of this launch. The Women’s Bookshop on Ponsonby Road was all set to host the event, so a big shout out to Carole and her team.

When I was about six, the height of scientific enterprise that encapsulated the excitement of the future was not the moon landing; after all, we queued up for ages to see a small lump of dusty moon rock that was, quite frankly, a huge disappointment. No, for me it was the Super Ball, the brightly coloured bouncy sphere of synthetic rubber called (Wikipedia informs me) Zectron. To a little girl, this seemed the height of scientific innovation: if you could make this tiny object bounce from floor to ceiling, endangering any ornaments in its path, then the future was going to be a wonderfully exciting place. Sad, I know, but toys have come a long way since then.


So, why am I wittering on about Super Balls? For two reasons. First, when Pamela sent her first draft in, it was evident there was something really special in there, but it needed work. So, I dashed her hopes to the ground with demands for changes and, like a Super Ball, she bounced back up again producing something far higher than my expectations. We went through that process several times, and Pamela just kept bouncing higher, a whizzing, psychedelic ball of energy and creativity, with added glitter. This is a sign of a true writer: someone with great ideas and a way with words and, most importantly, the perseverance and bounce of a Super Ball.

Secondly, although my imagination was tickled by a lump of synthetic rubber, Pamela’s imagination leaps as high and as far and as unexpectedly as those balls. Her vision of the future is fun and zany, but actually credible and well researched. From the talking toilet cubicles in school to the mood suit, her future is varied and intriguing, and a place I wanted to spend time in through the pages of her book.


Hello Strange has lots of heart (including a mechanical one and a humanoid one), vibrant characters, a compelling plot and is a moving exploration of grief.

So, for all readers from about 12 upwards, do escape this world into the future, as created by this exciting, irrepressible, Super Ball of a new writer, Pamela Morrow.


Here’s a sneak peek at the beginning


Harriet Allan, Fiction Publisher

Reading Eileen Merriman’s YA Novel Pieces of You




Pieces of You Eileen Merriman, Penguin Random House, 2017


Eileen Merriman’s debut YA novel Pieces of You is the kind of book you want to read in one sitting because it is so breathtakingly good. It is like a globe artichoke: sweet, layered, bitter. Fifteen-year-old Rebecca moves from Dunedin to Auckland, feels like a complete outsider, misses her friends, goes to a party and something awful happens that she can’t speak of, so cuts herself in order to get relief from pain. She meets her neighbour Corey and they fall in love. His dark secrets hide alongside her dark secrets. They write poetry together. They share their love of literature.  They are good for each other but they don’t tell each other everything and that keeps the dark dark.

The chapter titles are titles of outstanding books (The Outsiders, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Book Thief, Great Expectations, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, The Catcher in the Rye and so on). Rebecca and Corey talk about books a lot and books become little anchors, bridges between each other, vital keyholes upon a wider world. Books are part of the fabric of their daily life and that matters. They write a poem, Rebecca writing a line and then Corey the next. I adored this book/poetry/love of words presence.

I am not going to spoil the story by telling you what happens. Read it for yourself. Just know that this is an acute reading experience. It feels utterly real. It does not smudge the tough stuff. It is kaleidoscopic in both emotion and everyday detail. Detail that animates that lives of two teens. There are countless examples of excellent books on the tough experiences that some teenagers face (drugs, alcohol, abuse, rape, cancer, suicide, the death of a friend or family member) but that is not to say such subject matter is now done and dusted. Far from it.

Eileen writes with such a flair for dialogue, for family circumstances, for teenage struggles and joys. This is the kind of book that will stay at the front of my mind all week and longer  – I recommend it highly.

Eileen has also written Catch me When You Fall (2018). Invisible Breathing is out in 2019.

Eileen’s web site