When a family tears itself apart, can secrets from the past bring healing – or will they destroy even what is left?
Who will you be after the secrets are told, and how will you live with what you learn, and the people who lied to you?
Two Australian YA novels answer these question in very different ways.
Sam lives with his Mum in inner Sydney. It’s just him and her. He’s never known his father, and Aunty Lorraine and his cousins and Nana vanished from his life seven years ago, when he was ten.
“One Would Think the Deep” opens just after Sam’s Mum has dropped dead in their kitchen, and the Welfare decides Sam can’t live on his own.
Aunty Lorraine reluctantly takes him home to the New South Wales South Coast, to live with her and her boys. Shane’s old hatred of Sam is as mean as ever. But Minty and Sam were always like brothers, and Minty the champion surfer soon has Sam out on a board, catching waves as the sun rises behind them.
Then Nana returns from the past, determined to again be part of all their lives. Sam is torn between warm childhood memories, and fury that she walked out on them.
He has all the local kids to learn to fit in with, too, the surfer crowd and the others. The dialog between them is stunningly convincing – laconic, economical, easy in its casual acceptance of the newcomer.
But Sam knows he belongs nowhere. Lorraine doesn’t want him. When his lifelong, smoldering black rage explodes in violence, it threatens everything he still has.
The healing power of the waves, a love of offbeat music, a girl who runs by her own rules, and Nana who is determined to write a new story of Sam’s past – together they just may create a future Sam finds worth living.
“One Would Think the Deep” is a moving and deeply convincing story of teen friendship, and of the healing power within even messed-up families. Claire Zorn’s reputation as a writer of outstanding YA fiction grows with every book.
Emily Gale writes a very different story of a broken family hiding secrets in “Steal My Sunshine”.
Hannah’s mother is distant, angry, seeming unable to love her daughter or her own mother. She gives Hannah the duty of checking in on Nana – Essie – a tiny, eccentric and fiercely opinionated woman.
The only person Hannah’s mother can love – or allow to love her – is Hannah’s older brother, while Hannah is close to her dad. As she says, You had to pick a side in this family, or you had one picked for you.
Hannah’s best friend is wild-child Chloe, and like Essie she seems to know ‘how life really works’. But where is their friendship leading Hannah?
In the midst of a Melbourne summer heatwave, Hannah’s dad can take no more of the anger that fills the house. He packs his suitcases and walks out. Hannah’s mother has a breakdown, and Hannah turns to Essie and Chloe.
Essie senses her time is running out, and there are family secrets that need to be told before she dies.
What she tells Hannah is devastating for her, for her mother – and for readers of Steal My Sunshine. Emily Gale provides a powerful human face for a terrible injustice in Australia’s not-so-distant past.
Now that Essie’s family know the truth, can they create a more hopeful future? Or will it destroy any chance for Hannah and her mother to learn how to show love?
Emily Gale is well-established as an Australian children’s author. She is building a strong reputation as an author of contemporary, relevant YA fiction as well.