100 REMARKABLE FEATS OF XANDER MAZE by Clayton Zane Comber (HarperCollins)
The 2022 Prime Minister’s Literary awards shortlisted books were announced this week. As a judge in prior years I appreciate how much work and expertise is required by the judges, and work and liaison by coordinators and those submitting books for awards.
Congratulations to those involved and to everyone whose book is shortlisted.
In the Young Adult and Children’s literature categories, please follow the links at PaperbarkWords blog to the following shortlisted books:
The Gaps by Leanne Hall
Tiger Daughter by Rebecca Lim
Exit Through the Gift Shop by Maryam Masters
Dragon Skin by Karen Foxlee
The Boy and the Elephant by Freya Blackwood
My review of another of the shortlisted books, 100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze was originally published in Magpies magazine and is reproduced here with permission:
100 REMARKABLE FEATS OF XANDER MAZE by Clayton Zane Comber
Fifteen-year-old Xander’s most loved and trusted person, and only friend, is his Nanna but she is dying. He thinks that she might live if he makes a list of 100 Remarkable Feats and achieves them all. Xander’s father died when he was very young and he wishes that he could remember him. His mother tends to mollycoddle him because he may be neurodivergent but his Nanna has been his champion. She organised swimming lessons when he was younger and encourages him to be part of the world. She sneakily organises Xander’s list to go viral, which is embarrassing because it includes the name of the girl he thinks is the prettiest in the world and who he wants to kiss, but the public exposure forces him to work through the tasks and even brings some helpers.
The story becomes a countdown of ticking off the feats before Nanna dies but along the way Xander makes friends, joins the school soccer team, helps his reclusive neighbour, attempts to break a world record, searches for a missing student in the National Park, learn five things about the canteen lady and school janitor – and kisses the girl.
Although set in Sydney, 100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze is rose-coloured in a style more typical of North American novels for young people. As a result of Xander’s list, other students make an effort to know the canteen lady and janitor, scrub away the rude graffiti at school, leave money in the vending machine and write their own lists of Remarkable Feats. While suffused with themes of loss and grief this story builds to a joyous denouement. It is a feel-good read that would make an uplifting movie.
100 REMARKABLE FEATS OF XANDER MAZE by Clayton Zane Comber at HarperCollins Australia