Sensitive by Allayne L. Webster & IBBY

Book award season has begun!

IBBY Australia congratulates Allayne L Webster and Asphyxia whose respective books Sensitive and Future Girl have been selected for the 2023 IBBY international catalogue of outstanding books for young people with disabilities. These books were selected from the following Australian nominations.

The ten titles nominated by IBBY Australia are:

The Right Way to Rock, N. Amoore, Penguin
Future Girl, Asphixia, Allen & Unwin
A Weekend with Oscar, R. Bavati, Walker Books Australia
Xavier in the Meantime, K. Gordon, Yellow Brick Books
Please don’t hug me, K. Kerr, Text Publishing
Skin Deep, H. Laurence, Scholastic
The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp, P. Russell, EK Books.
Some Brains, N. Thomas, Some Kids Books
Sensitive, A. L. Webster, UQP
Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal, A. Whateley, Allen & Unwin

(follow the links to my interviews and reviews at PaperbarkWords)

I reviewed Sensitive by Allayne L Webster (as part of an omnibus review) for the Weekend Australian in September 2019 and have reproduced an extract of the review below.

The following link to the five-book review may be behind the paywall –

Sensitive by Allayne L. Webster, published by University of Queensland Press

Review by Joy Lawn

Allayne L. Webster’s Sensitive is a heartfelt eye-opener into the life of a young teen with a chronic skin disease. It mirrors some of the author’s own experiences.

Samantha moves to a new town and school and resolves to reinvent herself as SJ by finding out information without giving too much of herself away, pretending her sensitive red skin is sunburn and hiding her scars.

Her atopic eczema is debilitating and embarrassing. She knows how much to scratch before she bleeds but can’t always control the irritation and pain. It affects the whole family, ­particularly her mother, who has stopped work to manage the doctors’ visits, cleaning and special diets.

People’s reactions to SJ can be cruel or unhelpful, particularly when they offer advice and alternative remedies. SJ lies to hide her condition from her new friend Livvy and avoids the boy who likes her rather than risk him seeing and feeling her skin. She feels ugly and genetically “selected for extinction”. Her sensitivity and self-loathing escalate.

While there is no cure or easy ending for sufferers such as SJ, she realises that she is brave and strong enough to manage her disease. She decides that “new me is going to be honest (and) brave” and will be herself rather than her condition.

The message of this aptly named novel is that no one is perfect­ but young people should try to accept and love who they are.


I also reviewed Paper Planes, an earlier work by Allayne (also as part of an omnibus review) for the Weekend Australian in January 2015 and have reproduced an extract of the review below.

Blood and death are only too real in Allayne L. Webster’s depiction of war-torn Sarajevo in Paper Planes (Scholastic, 192pp, $16.99). Based on the true story of Bosnian Jarko Dobes, who fled to Australia as a refugee, the book’s main character is young Niko, who faces the deprivations of siege when the Serbs invade Bosnia. Water and electricity are lost, there are food shortages and looting, and bullets and bombs are aimed at civilians.

Niko’s Christian family remains faithful and supportive of his friend’s Muslim family. Webster, a South Australian writer, conveys this complex situation simply enough for younger teens and also offers insights into the futility of war.

The transformative power of the arts provides hope in the form of the famous Cellist of Sarajevo, who plays in defiance of war. Wildlife tentatively returning to the city is another portent of life and hope, particularly when Niko’s older brother sees a deer and presciently tells him that it was like “someone was trying to remind me there’s still beauty in the world”.

The following link to the complete four-book review may be behind the paywall –


Allayne also has a new book, Selfie, out with Text Publishing in April.

Allayne’s website


Future Girl by Asphyxia

Read my interview with Asphyxia about Future Girl at PaperbarkWords.

Congratulations to these fine authors.

Consider joining IBBY Australia

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