My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a great book. A book about that time in a teenager’s life when they are teetering on the precipice of adulthood, looking back over their shoulder at their childhood and knowing there is only one way to fall. It’s a book about friends, school, growing up and all the awful stuff that goes with it.
Karen Tayleur’s prologue lets us know that this story is not going to end well.
“…inside the overturned car, a mobile phone breaks into a musical ringtone. It is someone checking up on a daughter or a son or a friend. But no one will answer it.”
With this ominous beginning we enter the world of 5 friends who become linked by an unusual event – the discovery of a body in the local woods. The beginning of the story is related by Sarah, who I would call the chief protagonist. Friends Sarah, Poppy, Virginia, Finn, and Nico stumble across the corpse as they take a shortcut home. They don’t tell anyone about it. Nico places his shirt over the dead girl’s face and then, realising it may implicate him in the death (although he is innocent) seeks to retrieve it. When his girlfriend Poppy returns to get the shirt (Nico has been in trouble with the police in the past), it is gone. The book follows the ins and outs of the characters’ lives after their grisly discovery and how each of them deals with the fallout and the worrying mystery of the missing shirt.
Each of the characters tells part of the story and slowly a picture builds of the group and a sense of impending tragedy starts to gain momentum.
Sarah is studious and wants to be a doctor, Poppy believes she has psychic powers, Nico just wants to lay low, Finn has recently faked a break-up with Virginia so they can continue seeing each other after her parents forbid it. Virginia is the typical “popular” girl – caught up in the banal and superficial. Cooper is obsessed with Virginia.
In the background, they are all getting ready to attend the Senior Formal and there are relationship issues to deal with too.
Nico is struggling with guilt about the dead body, and with someone who taunts him with phone calls telling him they know about the missing shirt. Cooper, desperate to land Virginia, manages to get her as his formal date. Sarah yearns for Finn, who seems to be interested in her, despite Virginia’s protestations, Poppy worries about everyone – especially the troubled Nico and her best mate Sarah, who seems to be pulling away from her.
The night of the formal arrives and it is heavily laden with guilt, recrimination and revelations. No spoliers, but the six end up in the same car together and the novel ends as it began, with Sarah speaking to us.
I really enjoyed this story. The device of using the six characters to fill in the story works well, as does the clever use of nursery rhyme lines at the beginning of each chapter, emphasising the leaving of and longing for childish things and the inevitable push to adulthood.
An Australian coming-of-age story, but easily accessible to teenagers from anywhere, I commend you to read it.
Ages 14 and up