Competition for secondary school students

Reader's Review Competition

Write a book review for your chance to win a prize pack of free books and a visit to Penguin publishing house in Melbourne

The competition is now closed.

This year, the Victorian Premiers’ Reading Challenge (PRC)is running its first ever reader’s review competition for secondary school students (years 7 to 10).

Literacy is important for all aspects of life, and all Victorian secondary school students are encouraged to take the next step in expanding their literacy skills.

Readers review book list

Choose a book from the following book lists (according to your year level) to write your review:

Years 7 and 8

  • The Fall by Tristan Bancks
  • Thai-Riffic by Oliver Phommavanh
  • Lion: A Long Way Home (Young Readers edition) by Saroo Brierly
  • The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale
  • Ting Ting the Ghosthunter by Gabrielle Wang

Years 9 and 10

  • The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis
  • You Must be Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied
  • I Am Sasha by Anita Selzer
  • Intruder by Christine Bongers
  • Found by Fleur Ferris

Prize

The winner will receive:

  • a pack of free books
  • publication of their review on this website
  • the opportunity to visit Penguin Random House publishing house in Melbourne with up to four classmates and two teachers or parent/guardians.

Winning reviews

Congratulations to our Reader’s Review Competition winners—Zoe, Year 7 student at Grovedale College, and Ashnela, Year 9 student at East Doncaster Secondary College. Read their reviews below.

Winning review: years 7 and 8

Lion: A Long Way Home (Young Readers edition) by Saroo Brierly

Review submitted by Zoe N.

Lion: A Long Way Home (Saroo Brierley) is an autobiography that tells the amazing story of how Saroo survived on the streets of India, was adopted in Australia and searched for his long-lost family.

The action in the book starts when five-year-old Saroo becomes lost on a train in Kolkata. The book explains how he was lost on the streets for weeks. Saroo recalls the many dangers he faced, such as, sleeping near wild dogs, nearly being kidnapped and never having enough to eat. Eventually Saroo is given the opportunity to be adopted. The action in the book slows down as Saroo lives a lovely life in Tasmania with his new Australian parents. Although his life in Australia is happy and safe, Saroo always keeps his memories of his Indian family. As technology advances and Google Earth is invented, Saroo believes he may have a chance of finding his family that he lost many years ago.

In Lion, there are a few very strong themes. The three main themes are survival, belonging and persistence. Saroo uses survival strategies at the start of the book when he is lost. He has to steal food and take risks that could kill him in order to survive. Considering his age, Saroo has a lot of common sense which he uses to his benefit. When Saroo is adopted, he really feels like he belongs in Australia. At school, Saroo is one of the only few Indian children there, but this pushes him to try harder in school and sport so he is able fit in. Saroo uses persistence when trying to find his family. Using Google Earth to search India for his home is a slow process that takes plenty of patience and persistence.

Lion is an exciting and emotional book. It is easy to follow and it doesn't drag on. The book is broken into fourteen chapters, and each chapter is about five to seven pages long. Saroo keeps you hooked in from the first page to the last page.

Lion is appealing to many readers because of Saroo's use of langauge. The description that is used (especially at the start of the book) really allows the reader to fall into a lost Indian boy's shoes, which makes the book much more enjoyable. Lion: A Long Way Home is an outstanding and sensational book that deserves to be placed with a five star rating.

Winning review: years 8 and 9

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

Review submitted by Ashnela A.

Distraughtly emotional, ‘The Sidekicks’ differentiates mourning, through three adolescents, that grieve the ‘sudden’ death of their ‘best friend’ and ‘common denominator’. Inspired to write the novel due to the death of a close friend, author - Will Kostakis aspired the cathartic novel to be “hopeful”. “I’ve been writing to preserve him, understand his death, and mend my broken heart”, revealed Kostakis in an interview conducted by Melissa Albert, (sourced from ‘The B&N Teen Blog’).

Interestingly, the novel recurringly mentions Isaac’s ‘problem’ of consuming alcohol and illicit substances. Isaac was only sixteen when he passed, still in high school. The book tells of the ‘plenty’ of students attending ‘gatherings’ frequently and getting ‘blazed’. I was perplexed. For a student his age, shouldn’t drugs be less accessible? Even more, a student from one of ‘Australia’s most exclusive schools’? The story writes that Harley knew a ‘guy’. But, even then he didn’t ‘widely advertise it’, labelling it as a ‘service for mates’. Where could the many students (who weren’t close with Harley) supply their drugs from? I asked my elder brother (who studies at a different school), about this. And his reply was expected, yet still alarming - “There’s at least one drug dealer in every school”.

I knew there was a disreputable side to every school, even the ones with the most established and illustrious fronts. However, the unbothered manner he answered in, haunted me. It really does show that perceptions can be deceiving. Personas in the text, showcase this as well. Although, no one more intelligibly than the exalted ‘Olympic hopeful’. Ryan Thompson’s identity struggle sends an important message. Portrayed as a paragon of fear, he lives life prudently on the precipice of his biggest bridled secret. His attraction to men. Depicting Ryan being overwhelmingly terrified by people discovering his secret, and commonplace societal oppression, Kostakis paints himself vicariously - denouncing the treatment of same sex couples.

Through the meticulous language, the novel was able to genuinely convey the mannerisms of an adolescent and their individual mourning processes. The conscientiously intertwined perspectives coaxed readers to resonate with characters; immersing them in the storyline. The raw emotion yielded in the piece is the most valuable, connecting the characters with readers; making them comprehend the author’s earnestness.

Nevertheless, I am jaded. There was no urge to know what happens next. No urge to read the book quickly. Where is the author’s voice? His uniqueness? Perhaps, callowness has restricted me from enjoying the simplicity of the story. I pondered what the author could have improved, but could he? The aim was to emulate the grieving process from teen schoolboys’ perspectives.

Yet, something is amiss. Isaac was the constant in their lives. The pillar of the novel. Their solace. Shouldn’t he have played a bigger role in the storyline, separate from the occasional reminisce? The trio seem to recollect him for reasons that only supported their own characters’ development. Isaac Roberts is superficial here – simply serving a ‘function’. And the irony of that astounds me.

Contact us

If you have any questions or require an alternative way to enter the competition, email readingchallenge@edumail.vic.gov.au.