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Favourite secondary texts

White Lies by O’Sullivan, Mark

Wolfhound Press, 0-86327-592-3
A rollercoaster of the stormy relationship between two seventeen-year-olds is told by each character in turnabout chapters by Nance, black and adopted, and OD, a school drop-out with attitude.

Sisters ... no way! by Parkinson, Siobhán

O’Brien Press, 0-86278-495-6
A flipper - and brilliant - book, it deals with teenage life in an amusing and unusual way, using a dual diary format and two very different characters to expose very sensitive and personal problems common to young people, problems largely caused by adults.

The Guns of Easter by Whelan, Gerard

O’Brien Press, 0-86278-449-2
It is 1916 and Jimmy Conway, aged 12, from the Dublin slums, finds his loyalties sorely tested with his father away in France, fighting with the British army, while his uncle Mick joins the Rising, fighting against the British army in Dublin.

 

White Lies by O’Sullivan, Mark, Wolfhound Press, 0-86327-592-3

Mark O’Sullivan is, perhaps, the most gifted of writers for young people in Ireland and this rollercoaster of the stormy relationship between two seventeen-year-olds, is told by each character in turnabout chapters.

Nance, black and adopted, journeys into the past to discover her roots and identity only to find the truth is nearer home. OD dropped out of school at sixteen, works on a job creation scheme on a building site and has an attitude. Unable to get on with his washed-up, alcoholic trumpet-playing father, he becomes embroiled in shady dealings, his best friend Beano gets into drugs, and he falls out with Nance.
Living their lives on the edge of adulthood, they have to face up to choices and the truth behind white lies.
Nance
I suppose you could call it delayed shock. It had been two weeks since I’d found the photo, and my life had gone on as normal. At least, that’s how it must have seemed to OD, my boyfriend, and to everyone else. But inside I’d gone numb. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t study. I felt nothing. And then I cracked.
The child in the photo was me. I was certain of it. My brown skin, the tight black curls, something about the eyes. I don’t know how long I spent there, gaping at the photo, before I put it back exactly where I found it; but, to this day, I can remember every detail of it. The impossibly blue sky, the lush green trees in the background, the bright colours of their clothes. There were five adults in the photo.... The strange thing ... was that not one of them were smiling except the woman who held me. This convinced me even more she really was my natural mother.

OD
When you think things can’t get any worse, that’s when you can be sure they will. Call it OD’s Law if you like - Disaster plus X (the unknown, the future, the next minute) equals Double Disaster. That afternoon, as I left Jimmy in his fantasy world where money didn’t matter, I was lower than zero. Then I shot down the minus scale.
I was at the gate before I copped Seanie’s puke-green Popemobile parked near Beano’s house. I couldn’t make sense of the scene. It was like seeing a hearse outside a disco or something off-the-wall like that. Seanie wasn’t looking in my direction but staring worriedly at the passenger seat. Next thing I saw Nance’s head appear. I didn’t wait to see her face. I staggered back towards the house like I was going home after a night at the Galtee Lounge. I went out the back way by the lane behind our house.
My heart was banging out a mad beat somewhere between reggae, rap and house. The lyrics went something like ‘It doesn’t matter’, or ‘So what’, but they didn’t fit the rhythm. At the same time, someone must have been sticking pins into a little effigy of me because my knee was peppered with stinging jabs.

Also by Mark O’Sullivan
Silent Stones, Wolfhound Press, 0-86327-722-5
A gripping, thought-provoking and moving story of two teenagers forced to come to terms with their own and their families’ pasts at Cloghercree in the Irish Midlands. Mayfly Blenthyne is there because her English New-Age traveller parents believe that the ancient standing stones will miraculously cure her dying mother. Robby Wade is there because, trapped between his embittered great-uncle and the shadow of his dead IRA father, he cannot escape. Matters come to a head when Cloghercree is invaded by the ruthless terrorist, Razor McCabe, on the run from the police.

 

Sisters ... no way! by Parkinson, Siobhán, O’Brien Press, 0-86278-495-6

This flipper book by one of Ireland’s foremost storytellers deals with teenage life in an amusing and unusual way, using a dual diary format and two very different characters to expose very sensitive and personal problems common to young people, problems largely caused by adults.
Cindy does not want her dad to remarry after her mother’s death - especially not the divorced mum of the prissy and utterly boring Ashling. Ashling, in turn, wants her mother to find a nice man, but does it have to be the widowed father of the noxious Cindy, arch-snob and ultra-opinionated? No way do these two want to become sisters and make their feelings clear in their diaries.
Ashling, Wednesday, 21 & 28 May
It happened again this evening. Mum was on the phone during my practising time. This time the other person rang her, though, so it’s not her fault. I’m dying to know if it’s the tall dark stranger. I hope so. Wouldn’t it be great if Mum had a - I don’t know how to put this - ‘boyfriend’ sounds too girlish, ‘man’ sounds too racy, ‘partner’ sounds too proprietorial, ‘friend’ sounds too coy. But maybe it was just somebody she got talking to outside the gallery. Maybe she was just telling him where the cloakroom was. Maybe they were just two people exchanging remarks on the street. But who is ringing her up? I just hope he’s not married, that’s all. Mum wouldn’t dream of it if he is of course. I mean, I hope he’s not married and pretending not to be....
Well! a great leap forward! Mum’s going out tonight with Richard. Richard is her new gentleman caller. That’s what she called him when she told us about him. It’s a little joke, that, a reference to a play, I think. I don’t know much about plays. Maths and science are more my line than English
She told us this morning at breakfast. I don’t think she chose breakfast on purpose because it’s a rushed meal and we have to leave first to catch the bus. I think she must have been working up to it for sometime.
Cindy, Friday, 23 May
It makes you wonder. I mean, Mum is not even two months dead, and there he is throwing himself at another woman. How could he be so callous? He can’t have loved her at all. Or maybe he did just at the beginning. I mean, there’s me, after all, so there must have been something there at one time. I was born six months after they were married. Mum used to joke about it, say I was a miracle baby. When I was small, I used to believe it, that I was really amazingly premature, but when I got older, I realised she was only joking, that she was pregnant when she got married. I used to be proud of that. I felt it proved my parents were unconventional and passionate. Now it makes me wonder. Maybe she pressurised him into marrying her. Maybe she even got pregnant on purpose so he’d have to marry her. Maybe she only wanted an Irish passport. (I haven’t worked out why, though, that’s still a bit obscure.)
I often wondered why I was an only child. I assumed it was something gynaecological. Mum used to have a terrible time with her periods, and when I was about ten she finally had a hysterectomy, so I thought that was it. But now I wonder. Maybe they had given up sleeping together. I mean, they always had a double bed, but you know what I mean, though now I come to think of it, Dad used to spend a lot of time in the spare room, even before she got sick. Maybe he’s been a philanderer all along. The pig.

Also by Siobhán Parkinson

Breaking the Wishbone, O’Brien Press, 0-86278-635-5
This inventive exploration of how five homeless teenagers in a Dublin squat face the most harrowing situations with humour, courage and resilience takes the form of a ‘documentary, if you like, heads to camera, as they piece their stories together’. For Johnner it’s a bit like camping - for a while. Beano is manipulative, violent and controlling, out to score whatever and whenever he can. Caroline, overwhelmed by loss, is distant and confused. Samantha conjures up dreams to keep herself going. Curly is somewhat slow but honest and steady, trying hard to make the best of a bad lot.

 

The Guns of Easter by Whelan, Gerard, O’Brien Press, 0-86278-449-2

This gripping story by one of Ireland's lleading writers of historical fiction for children is about 1916 and Jimmy Conway, aged 12, who lives in the Dublin slums - a one-room tenement close to the city centre - and is caught up in the Easter Rising.
While his father is away in France, fighting with the British army, his uncle Mick joins the Rising, fighting against the British army in Dublin, Jimmy feels he must be the provider for his mother and two younger sisters.
With the GPO in the hands of the Volunteers his family is deprived of the all-important Separation Allowance. Setting out to find food or money, Jimmy finds himself adrift in a nightmare version of the world he has known and must come to terms with a great deal before he returns home.
On one level The Guns of Easter is a story of war, on another it is the tale of a young boy's brutal forced awakening to the complexities of the world and adult life.
Jimmy wished more than ever that Da could be here now. The fact that he wasn’t made Jimmy the man of the house, and at twelve years of age Jimmy found that hard. The man of the house was supposed to know right from wrong, but Jimmy didn’t always find this so simple. And then again even adults couldn’t seem to agree on what was right and what wasn’t. Uncle Mick, for instance, had been furious with Da for joining the army.
‘How can he fight for the British?’ Mick asked Ma when he heard the news. ‘And for what? For their money.’
This was just after Da went away. A week before, Ma herself had been giving out to Da for signing up, but now she turned on Mick.
‘There’s food for the children now,’ she said. ‘That’s what that money means to James. That’s all that war means to him. He was never out playing soldiers like you and your Citizen Army friends.’
Mick looked insulted but Ma continued, anger in her voice now. ‘It’s all very well for you, Mick. You’re single, and you have no-one to look after, barring yourself. You can afford dreams and high ideas. How long would your dreams last if they were all you had to bring home to a house full of hungry children? Dreams make bad dinners, Mick.’
Also by Gerard Whelan
Dream Invader, O’Brien Press, 0-86278-516-2
This is one of the scariest tales of ‘good versus evil’ ever written for children. The prize at stake is a little boy’s life. Every night Saskia’s cousin, Simon, wakes screaming and terrified in his new car-shaped bed, for the most horrific journeys are being undertaken in a green car by Simon and his tormentor, the Pooshipaw. The Pooshipaw orchestrates Simon’s dreams. The further down the road they travelled, the more sick and frightening were the scenes at the roadside. With every dream Simon grew more afraid because at the end, the Pooshipaw warns Simon, ‘dreams of you will be all your precious Mammy and Daddy have left’. Pooshipaw was not a nice man at all ....