Narrator: Tamala Shelton
Published by Lothian Children's Books
Published on 26 May 2020
Genres: 20th Century, Adolescence, Social Issues
Source: my local library
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'I was eleven when everything started and twelve by the end. But that's another way maps lie, because it felt like the distance travelled was a whole lot further than that.'
Sorrento, Victoria - 1999 Fred's family is a mess. Fred's mother died when she was six and she's been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop is at the Rye Rehabilitation Centre recovering from a fall; Luca's girlfriend, Anika, has moved in; and Fred's just found out that Anika and Luca are having a baby of their own. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.
But even as the world feels like it's spinning out of control, a crisis from the other side of it comes crashing in. When 400 Kosovar-Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to be housed at one of Australia's 'safe havens' on an isolated headland not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family, as she navigates one extraordinary year that will change them all.
A middle-grade coming-of-age story about the bonds of family and the power of compassion for fans of The Bone Sparrow, Wolf Hollow and The Thing About Jellyfish.
This is a middle-grade book, intended for audience more than half my age, so while I’m not the target audience, I did love the author’s other book The Monster Of Her Age so much I wanted to give this one a try as well.
I ended up really loving it.
It’s really hard for me to say why I loved it so much. Due to it being a coming of age set over one year, it felt like there was little plot sometimes, just a series of events building up on one another – but not in a bad way.
I think the main reason why I loved this so much was that Binks, while not a poetic or flowery writer, managed to nail the emotion each and every time. Bam! Bam! Bam! There goes my heart, breaking over a book I’m not even the target audience for. Or was even that interested in reading?
Binks had this great ability to relate almost everything back to the title. It was story of Kosovo refugees coming to Australia, of blending families, of Australia’s history of naming things even though they already have names. Every time there was an allusion to the title I’d be like, yeah, this title is so perfect for this story.
I loved that it was set in 1999, because I was the same age as the protagonist then. There was so many 1999 references, from Mario on the Nintendo 64, to Tazos, to HeartBreak High, that I felt so immersed back in my own childhood. This is one of the reason why I think other people who were culturally immersed in Australia at the turn of the millennium might also find value in this novel, even though they might not normally be middle-grade readers.
Binks has such a great sense of place, describing the locations with what appears to be pinpoint accuracy and namedropping landmarks as if she grew up there (I don’t know if she did, I’m not going to be creepy and go research it).
The audiobook narrator was really great, giving such a good performance as an adult looking back on their experience as an eleven year old girl. Because the narration was at arms’ length from the action, while we didn’t get intimately emotional, there were still a few scenes that made me cry.
Overall I loved this book so very much and it has really cemented Binks as one of my favourite emotional writers, and I would dearly love to read her next one.