I find it so interesting when you read a book and have really mixed feelings. It doesn’t happen very often for me but in this case it did, and it’s quite complicated ~ in a good way.
Huge thanks to Hachette Australia for sending me this eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book comes out on June 30th and I sincerely hope that you guys do give it a read to make up your own opinion about this one.
Lissa is home on her own after school one afternoon when a stranger turns up on the doorstep carrying a baby. Reed is on the run – surely people are looking for him? He’s trying to find out who he really is and thinks Lissa’s mum might have some answers. But how could he be connected to Lissa’s family – and why has he been left in charge of a baby? A baby who is sick, and getting sicker …
Reed’s appearance stirs up untold histories in Lissa’s family, and suddenly she is having to make sense of her past in a way she would never have imagined. Meanwhile, her brother is dealing with a devastating secret of his own.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5/5)
In this novel, we follow Lissa, a young 13-year-old girl in high school who is navigating a lot of stuff when it comes to friendship, family and understanding yourself better in the social and personal context. She meets Reed, a runaway boy with a baby who is trying to find his birth mother and thinks that it’s actually Lissa’s mum from an email she sent a decade ago. While trying to sort that out, she’s trying to understand what’s going on with her brother and figuring out her friendships at school after her best friend moved to WA.
First things first, I think the biggest word that comes to mind when thinking of this book is that it’s important.
I found it quite hard to read it at the beginning because the writing style wasn’t really for me; it wasn’t super descriptive with a lot of statements and a strange lack of emotion from the protagonist and it was SO Australian – something I’m not usually a huge fan of. As someone who grew up in Australia, it always seems so jarring and would likely make it a little confusing for other people who don’t understand or recognise certain slang, pieces of distinct Australian culture and specific geographical locations.
It was certainly not the typical YA contemporary. This book seriously gave me the vibes of a middle grade rather than a young adult book. It felt like a book I would be forced to read in English at Lissa’s age in Year 7 or Year 8 of high school, and that was a big negative for me until I kept reading. As the story progressed, I realised why the author has written the book this way ~ this book is literally intended for readers around Lissa’s age and I began to gain an understanding of how impactful that really is.
I began to imagine myself as a 13 year old reading this in school and started to see this book address so many topics that have become so relevant and important for young people to read about. The themes of dealing with cyberbullying, figuring out your friendships (in that you can actually choose your friends and shouldn’t let yourself be beat down by bullies), of the importance of family, whether you’re biologically related to them or not, and also just the theme of ‘coming of age’ that we see so often but in a different, more juvenile execution for that younger target audience.
The book seemed to take character development in a different way. I don’t think the story was even about whether I liked Lissa and Reed much as protagonists and how they both grew, the story was more about their growth based on the consequences to their actions. Something pretty important for young people to read about!
Towards the end of the novel, I couldn’t stop reading because I felt that this book was so important and that I wished I had read it when I was that age. Another thing that stood out to me was the concept of responsibility, a young kid like Reed shouldn’t be responsible to take care of a baby and I really loved that the novel emphasised that throughout the story. I hate the idea that kids are growing up before they should, that they’re more worried about their social status online than actually being a kid and having fun, and this contemporary felt slightly hard-hitting in that way. The writing style started to feel more poetic and meaningful in other ways than the traditional YA contemporaries I’ve read in the past.
Despite a slow beginning, this book felt quite avant-garde and unprecedented in its ability to really dig deeper into what young teenagers face today. Even though it wasn’t the typical tear-jerker or heartbreaking contemporary novel, I could really see its value and really hope that more kids in early high school do get the chance to read this one, even if it’s deemed compulsory in English class.
What’s a book you had to read in English class that you could relate to?
Until next time,