Julie Bertagna (born in 1962) is a Scottishauthor who has written real life and science fiction novels for both children and young adults. Her books have been shortlisted for several literature awards, including the Carnegie Medal and her novel Exodus was the winner of the Lancashire County Library Children’s Book of the Year Award.Soundtrack, her second novel for young adults, won a Scottish Arts Council Award, the second highest award ever given to a Scottish children's writer.
Bertagna was born in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, and moved to Glasgow when she was seven years old.
After receiving an MA Hons in English Language and Literature at Glasgow University she worked as an editor for a small magazine, then moved into teaching before working as a freelance journalist for various publications. She then published her first book, The Spark Gap, when she was 25 years old.
She currently writes full-time and lives in the West End of Glasgow with her husband Riccardo and young daughter.
Her writing often reflects her Scottish background, sometimes being set in the country. An example of this is The Spark Gap, which she wrote specifically  to include characters like the children she was teaching in Glasgow.
Other influences of her work include global warming and climate change, being major themes in her novel Exodus, which took the "highly commended" award, the equivalent of second prize, at the first Eco Prize, held by the Friends of the Earth Scotland. Her first novel for Young Picador, Exodus, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Award and was described by The Guardian as "a miracle of a novel".
Her book The Opposite of Chocolate deals with issues of teenage pregnancy.
Julie Bertagna has written books for both children and young adults. Bertagna's first book was The Spark Gap. Her most recent book is Zenith, the sequel to Exodus. Both of these books were written for young adults.
The Spark Gap (1996)
Kerrie feels trapped. She can't spend another day in her chaotic mother's house. Then Kerrie finds an escape. On the rooftop of a nearby tower block live two castaway teenagers, Mauve and Skip. As Kerrie starts to share their sky-high home, she relishes her new-found freedom. And when a freak fire destroys their towerblock, Kerrie decides to leave the city with Mauve and Skip. She thinks that she can leave her problems behind in Glasgow – but what will happen when Kerrie stops running?
Exodus is set in 2100 - and the world is gradually drowning, as mighty Arctic ice floes melt, the seas rise, and land disappears forever beneath storm-tossed waves. For 15-year-old Mara, her family and community, huddled on the fast-disappearing island of Wing, the new century brings flight. Packed into tiny boats, a terrifying journey begins to a bizarre city that rises into the sky, built on the drowned remains of the ancient city of Glasgow. But even here there is no safety and, shut out of the city, Mara realizes they are asylum-seekers in a world torn between high-tech wizardry and the most primitive injustice. To save her people, Mara must not only find a way into the city but also search for a new land and a new home...
Zenith is a sequel to Exodus and continues the story of Mara as the world is gradually drowning, as mighty Arctic ice floes melt, the seas rise, and land disappears forever beneath storm-tossed waves....
Sixteen-year-old Mara and her ship of refugees are tracking the North Star, desperate to find a homeland in the melted ice mountains of Greenland. The vast, floating city of Pomperoy is just one of the shocks that are not in their navigation plans. Unwittingly, the refugees bring catastrophe in their wake for Tuck, a gypsea pirate-boy, and also for Ilira – a land whose inhabitants exist in a state of terror at the top of the world.
Back in the drowned ruins at the feet of the towering sky city, Fox is beginning his battle with the cruel, corrupt forces that rule the New World. But separated from Mara, his resolve begins to waver....
Aurora is the third in the trilogy after Exodus and Zenith. This story focuses on Mara's 15-year-old daughter, Lily, and her discovery of the world she lives in.
Meanwhile, Fox is leading a rebellion in the New World cities and attempting to get as many people as possible to the city where Mara and the others are located by Lake Longhope in Greenland. After losing contact with Mara years ago, he hangs on to the hope that he can still find her.
- The Ice Cream Machine (1998)
- Soundtrack (1999)
- Bungee Hero (1999)
- Dolphin Boy (1999)
- Clumsy Clumps and the Baby Moon (1999)
- '"Amphibian City" (1999) (In Phenomenal Future Stories, edited by Tony Bradman)
- The Opposite of Chocolate (2003)
- Ice Cream Machine Totally Fizzbombed (2005)
In January 2004 a television series for children was created based on Bertagna's book The Ice Cream Machine. The programme is produced in a co-production of Five with SMG and the Gaelic Broadcasting Committee. It is aimed at six- to nine-year-olds and will be broadcast in both English and Gaelic.
“Exodus,” by Julie Bertagna
Wing is an isolated island in the Northern Sea. Each year the seas rise a little farther, forcing the people of Wing to move upland. And each year the winter storms hit Wing even harder. For fifteen-year-old Mara the storms are frightening, and she is convinced that there must be some way to escape the situation.
In her spare time Mara uses the Weave, an ancient virtual reality system, to search for information about what Earth was once like and what happened to the rest of the world. Most modern technology no longer works, but pieces of the Weave still operate, and Mara is able to tap into it. The Weave once bustled with human avatars, but now it is empty, and all that is left are representations of the disturbing wreckage of Earth’s civilization, interrupted at its very peak by world disaster. The Weave is full of frightening calls for help, and last minute news reports about worldwide flooding.
But deep in the Weave Mara finds clues that lead her to believe that just before the world flooded a series of elevated cities were built on huge platforms above the water. These cities were called New World cities, and in pictures they appear beautiful, with intricate platforms and tubes. Mara dreams about finding one of these cities and leading the people of her island to live there.
Finally Mara uncovers clues that reveal the location of a New World city called New Mungo. Excited, she uncovers her ultimate plan to the people of Wing. They should sail South, leaving Wing behind, and become a part of New Mungo.
After some deliberation the people of Wing decide to leave their island. Really they have no choice. The sea is rising so rapidly that they may not be able to survive another winter without being washed out to sea by rising floodwaters.
So the people of Wing set out for the New World city. Upon arriving at New Mungo, though, they find themselves locked out. New Mungo is a giant elevated city and its residents have little concern for any others who may have the misfortune to not have an elevated city of their own. The thousands of refugees that live below New Mungo have nowhere else to go, and now the people of Wing have no choice but to join them. The squalid conditions of the refugee camp cause sickness and anger. Even the danger of Wing would be preferable.
But Mara is still determined to save her people. If she could just find some way past New Mungo’s defenses then perhaps she could find a way to save not only the people of Wing, but the other suffering refugees as well.
“Exodus” is an amazing story in all respects. Author Julie Bertagna has envisioned a stunning world, reminiscent in some ways of “The Other Side of the Island.” In a world engulfed with water there is limited interchange of ideas, and as a result each group of isolated people develops their own dramatically different culture.
This makes for some very interesting characters. All of the main players in “Exodus” are well designed, with their strong and weak points to balance them out. I will be especially interested in seeing how “Exodus” develops as a series. The book ends with plenty of room for further developments, and I’m sure that a sequel will come soon.
I definitely recommend “Exodus” as one of the most interesting utopian/dystopian novels I’ve read.
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