Lissa is confronted by Reed, a distressed young stranger with a baby. He’s a runaway with a secret that will prove to be life-changing for Lissa and her family. At the same time her brother Harry is dealing with his own secret that threatens his mental and physical well-being.
Lissa is the narrator of the story and is central to the multiple storylines that flow through the book. Lissa is trying to find a way to new friendships after her closest friend moves to another state. The cruelty of teenagers and the power they can immaturely wield is very accurately described. She lacks confidence but can take decisive action at moments of crisis. The book outlines the months in her life when she learns some great truths about herself, her family and how the world works. It’s a coming-of-age novel with current issues at its core.
Each of the three main teenage characters is facing different challenging situations. The intricacies of their issues are slowly revealed, and the reader is propelled forward by a driving desire to know how each calamitous situation will be resolved.
Harry’s deep secrets are turning his thoughts to dark places. Lissa’s mother is haunted by an incident from the past. Reed is seeking information about his identity but is saddled with responsibility beyond his capabilities. Lissa is overwhelmed by the impacts of all these secrets and must draw on her resilience and empathy.
Don’t be misled by the cover – this book tackles some heavy issues for teenagers: navigating social media, cyberbullying, sexual identity, attention seeking behaviour, pitfalls of friendship circles, the stress of keeping secrets and knowing others have secrets, and redefining oneself in the wake of new information that changes everything you thought you knew about your family and your place in it.
The writing is strong and assured, holding the suspense right through to the final chapter. I was turning pages rapidly, reading faster and faster to find out what happens to those characters in mortal danger and to see how their situations would be resolved.
Author Jane Godwin has written over twenty-five books for children and her work has been highly acclaimed and awarded. Jane’s picture book, Tilly, has been shortlisted for the 2020 CBC Book of the Year award and her YA novel As Happy as Here has been shortlisted for the 2020 YABBA Awards.
There is a deep familiarity for me in this book and I think Australian teenagers will find it quite relatable. It is set in suburban Melbourne and the characters enjoy Maggie Beer’s ice-cream and shop at Chemist Warehouse. There is talk of tradies and L plates, footy and yum cha, camping weekends and Milo. I would recommend this book for readers 12+.