Justine has to be one of my favourite heroines this year. Her sad and miserable life on the outside belies the wonders going on in her lovely mind on the inside. She is one of lifes victims, being bought up by her Grandfather in abject poverty, in a small Australian town, she is so very alone. Her Grandfather is unwell and he was a soldier involved in the building of the Burma Railway and he carries this around with him every day. He suffers terribly. Her Dad, Ray, occasionally comes home to drink with the male relatives and to do unspeakable things to the women of the town. He is a bad man, and unstable man. Justine sees her half-brothers and sisters, at The Choke, the swimming hole but there is a falling out and then she is so lonely. Leaving her with just the chooks, who are quite the characters, and Grandad. Grandad loves her and the chickens, but his son Justine’s father and his daughter is banished due to her love for a woman. Justine is unable to decipher the words at school, she is dirty, unkempt, has nothing to wear and mostly lives on eggs from the beloved chickens. All this grimness, and Justine goes on, getting along with her life. It is so unfair, you want so much more for Justine.
Then she is made to sit beside Michael Hooper at school. Michael who cannot speak, who is very disabled, whom the other kids mercilessly make fun of. This is the beginning of a friendship which will be transformative for Justine, until Michael leaves for Sydney and she is alone again. And then it all starts to get worse. So much worse.
I loved Justine, I loved the way she thought, the way she was so brave. I love that the story was told from her point of view. This really is a gem of a book. One I will remember for a long time, Justine made me laugh and cry and gasp with horror at what she witnessed and what happened to her. I count myself a freshly minted Sophie Laguna fan!
Listen to her here on a podcast.
I’m way behind on catching up with this author, lots of my friends have discovered his wonderful way with teenage characters and here and I only just getting to it. Now that I have read this one I need to get going on the other book by this author that we have in the library.
Mel has secrets that she holds close in order to protect the new life she has built in a new place, away from where a tragic event took the life of her brother, which she witnessed. This is more than enough tragedy to bear but there is also the fact that Mel has crippling mental health issues and holds them in check, but just barely. Oh it is hard. It is hard to read of her coping, hard to read of her not coping.
This book wouldn’t be for everyone, Mel can be a character who seems hard, who isn’t always nice to her friends, who hurts people, but you have to understand how tense she is and how hard it is to tell anybody her stuff. Most of the time she can manage to keep it together and hold everything in with coping strategies, but then that just isn’t enough. When the crisis comes it is going to be huge, and all you can do is stand by and wait for the peak and hope nobody gets hurt.
This is a sad story, well written but the style is unusual and that may irritate some people too. A solid 4 star read for me.
If you were a young person who was interested in making your way in the illustration or comic world, I think this book would be a great asset. There is a section at the end of the book which will give you handy heads-ups and ideas to make your quest become easier.
Sarah Anderson’s cartoons are gentle, sweet and self-depreciating. The cutsie style belies the depth of the cartoons, they are utterly sweet and at the same time often utterly disarming and poignant. I’ve been following her work on Facebook for some time and have thoroughly enjoyed reading her work. To have this lovely book full of them is great.
I love the way she ties the love of animals with loneliness and often, wouldn’t we just want the uncomplicated company of a furry being for all the things we need, this is what she does, she harnesses this feeling and draws it perfectly in simple but sharp squares. Sarah describes the feelings of growing older in a world with expectations perfectly, she could be one of my kids! It is tough out there in the world, having all those grown up expectations, of yourself but also other people expecting certain behaviours from you. I love that Sarah’s musings are in comic form, so accessible and so perfect for how we all feel some of the time. A lovely treasure of a book.