Megan Williams won the Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, 2022, with this emotive, finely written novel, mainly about teenage love and friendship but with family relationships, sport and dementia strongly in the mix.
Abby is sixteen, galumphing along kissing her cousin’s cousin, aaagh!, avoiding her beloved grandma who doesn’t really recognise her anymore, coping with her Mum, school and everything. The one solid rock in her ever changing world is her friendship with Ella. They have been mates since whenever and they ‘get’ each other. Then new girl Chloe comes along and life and certainties change.
Abby is surprised, mystified, confused, hurt by what she sees as Ella’s neglect and preference for Chloe’s company. As Megan said in a Paperbark blog: ‘There’s nothing more glorious or life-affirming than laughing with a friend and, on the flip side, there’s nothing lonelier than feeling misunderstood by someone who usually ‘gets’ you.’
The whole is told from Abby’s point of view and she really grows as a person and on the reader. The other characters Ella, Chloe, Will, and the boyfriends inhabit a recognizable world and their behaviour is normal, familiar and unsurprising. This is definitely a YA novel as sex and alcohol are part of all their lives.
But then tragedy strikes in Ella’s family, and both Ella and Abby have enormous difficulty dealing with it. For both of them this level of grief is new and they cope with it in very different ways, not always successfully. It is at this point that the novel gets into its stride, becoming more personal and relatable, with some taut writing that wrings your heart with strong emotion but never veers into sentiment.
Many teenagers will enjoy this novel as it blends realism with humour, and its universal themes are infused with a timely resonance.