Category Archives: Reviews

A Quick Note From the Trenches

Hello, dear people. I am currently occupied with life rather than writing (Oh, as if the two could be separated! you exclaim, but yes it seems they can and indeed sometimes must), but now take a break from life-rather-than-writing to celebrate the US publication of A Single Stone earlier this month and wave across the distance to those new readers who have been stopping by.

People ask me how sales are going and I say, “I have no idea”, because I don’t.

People ask me how reviews are going, and I say, “As they always do,” because how could it be otherwise?

Because it’s a book, a story, a subjective thing, and some people like my writing and some people don’t and there is nothing at all I can do about that. What I can do is try and make the way that I write the very best version of itself it can be, and that’s something I work on every day. (Except for now. Because now is life-rather-than-writing. As I have said too many times already and will not mention again.)

I will return to writing-not-life soon enough and will bring you some A Single Stone-related news on that front. Which may seem odd, because how could a book which is well and truly already written be part of my future writing? Watch this space for an answer to this curliest of questions.

But for now, here is a sprinkling of US reviews which have filled my heart with gladness:

The prose flows gracefully, like rivulets down a mountainside … A beautiful, sparkling gem
Kirkus (starred review)

[A] gripping story, McKinlay (Below) believably evokes the dangers inherent in Jena’s burgeoning autonomous thoughts and actions in a tightly controlled dystopian environment where her grace and power ultimately prevail.
Publisher’s Weekly

McKinlay’s stark yet effective prose and layered world-building, reminiscent of the dystopian societies created by Margaret Atwood, combine in a haunting novel that will stay with readers. Younger readers ready to tackle the heavy subject matter will join older YAs in delving into this unusual, evocative title recommended for both middle and high school collections.
School Library Journal

Utterly enthralling … a great story that will immediately hook a wide variety of readers.
The Loud Library Lady

A Single Stone is incredibly unique. The world McKinlay has crafted is nuanced and thoughtful … The clever intertwining of religion, politics, and ethical dilemmas takes A Single Stone into territory beyond other genre hits.
Sea Reads

Yikes. Just, yikes. This book has some serious grit in it. …It’s painful and gruesome to read, but so fascinating at the same time that I devoured the entire book in one sitting.
Read Till Dawn

I ask you – how can you not love a review that starts with “Yikes” and then goes on to recommend the book?

A Single Stone has also been named as a Junior Library Guild Selection, which I’m told is a very good thing indeed.

US readers/teachers/librarians and folk of all stripes, if you’re looking for more on the book, including links to a bunch of interviews, teaching resources, and other bits and pieces, then do visit this page on my website. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

It Was the Best of Covers; It Was the Worst of Covers …

In case anyone needed more evidence that responses to art are subjective, Below recently featured on two unexpected – and surprisingly juxtaposed – 2013 wrap-up lists.

List the First: “Best Book Covers of 2013”

List the Second: “Best Book Hidden Under the Worst Cover”

While I’m genuinely surprised by the second one, I do sort of love that it fits with the notion of things being hidden below the surface, which is central to the story in Below.

Reviews, Readers, and a Return to Writing

With Below having been out in the US for a couple of months now, reviews have been coming in, and it’s made me realise something.

I was nervous about this book.

That is perhaps a little odd as it’s been out for two years in Australia already. It’s had plenty of reviews and feedback from readers over here. I’m not sure why I felt nervous about the US release; it just somehow felt like I was diving into a different sort of pond. Even though Candlewick had already published my picture book No Bears and chapter book Duck for a Day, there was something different about this, perhaps more of myself in this work somehow.

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There’s a Bear in There

Two bears, actually. On the CBCA Book of the Year Shortlist.

I was out when the announcements were made, and I’m not a smartphone kind of girl. So I found out via text message and slightly garbled phone calls (Frané Lessac, I’m looking at you!). First, someone told me that both Surface Tension and No Bears had made it onto the Notables list. I was thrilled by this.

Later, other texts started coming in. No Bears had made the Shortlist too. Wonderful. Amazing.

In two categories. Early Childhood and Picture Book. What?

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On Being Reviewed

I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to be reviewed. Partly in response to recent conversations with some other writers, and partly in response to, well, being reviewed.

The result is a three-way blogapalooza in which myself, Anna Branford, and Sally Murphy, decided we would gather, and post, our thoughts on this topic with a view to starting a conversation between ourselves, and perhaps others. So after you’ve read this, it might be interesting for you to head over to their blogs, too. I know I’m about to. I haven’t read their takes on the issue, and I’m sure we’ve all taken a very different approach to things.

To begin with, I suspect I’m not alone in having a somewhat ambivalent relationship to reviews. Writers need them, of course. We need people to notice our work – to read it, engage with it, hold it up to the light for others.

Maybe I should re-frame that: to pass judgement. Isn’t that what a review does, after all? Isn’t that what a review is for?

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It Is The Words During Which Spout Out

In an earlier post, I mentioned having been told that Surface Tension had apparently received a “cracker of a review”, but that I hadn’t yet seen it. I’ve now seen it, and a couple of others too, and am so thrilled with the response this book seems to be eliciting so far.

So this is a wholly self-serving post to gleefully report on those reviews and bombard you with my favourite pull-quotes from same.

#1 From Bookseller+Publisher:

Surface Tension is a wonderfully layered story—reading it is like being gradually immersed in a pool of water as each layer of the narrative slowly washes over you. The writing is so gentle that the mystery at the heart of this book is as much a surprise to the reader as it is to Cassie, our protagonist, when piece by piece it floats to the surface before her … There isn’t a dull moment in this book.
-Bec Kavanagh

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Three Things on Thursday

It’s been too long between posts again and that may continue for a while. Sometimes there is a limited number of words to go around and I have to use them all for the more important stuff, being the books themselves.

I have my head down on a deadline at the moment, which is equal parts energising and terrifying. If you had told me a couple of years ago that in October I could strip back and rewrite a book scheduled for publication in March, I would have laughed.

I’m not laughing now. In a secret place, I may be weeping. But I’m writing, and that’s good. It’s the main thing, after all.

So it’s a quick post from the trenches, to poke my head up briefly and share three things that have made me smile mightily over the last few weeks of bloggy silence.

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