Bring problems to us before they’re too big to handle, the Princpal advises Zo when she arrives at her new city school. But good advice isn’t much help to Zo. Her Mum’s still a workaholic, and her best friend is still a thousand miles away, back home. Zo soon teams up with Missy. She’s cheeky, smart, a mean soccer player and believes in magic. She comes from a tough family that doesn’t take crap from anyone and it shows. She’s all muscles and attitude like a cattle dog on the warpath. Zo is more laid back – having money makes for a bigger comfort zone, even if you are fat and black. A showdown can’t be far away when Zo and Missy’s worlds collide. It’s not a racial issue – or is it? At school or clubbing or stomping the bush on Kulcha Kamp, the girls are on edgy ground. But in the darkness of night, each of them finds a special magic of her own…
I don’t read much YA these days (I consumed masses of it when I was part of the target audience) but there is something about well-written YA that leaves me feeling very satisfied. This book falls well into that category.
The characters were believable and recognisable, albeit different from me, and in very different situations. As is pretty typical in YA, the main character, Zo, doesn’t quite feel like she belongs anywhere – she’s Aboriginal, with roots in Blacktown and Cape York, but that’s not where she lives; she doesn’t speak much language; she lives alone with her white mother; they are now better off financially than her friends, although they have known want and hardship. At the beginning of the book they move from smalltown Dunstan to Brisbane, leaving Zo feeling even more adrift.
The narrative arc allows Zo to explore her friendships with Sione and Missy, to think deeply about prejudice and to start understanding how to rely on the support of the adults around her.
As noted above, the characters seem real, as does the dialogue – and I loved the scattering of language throughout the book. Zo is given enough room to move and grow and learn, but the events are not overly dramatic and you don’t put the book down thinking “that would never happen”. This is an extremely solid book for readers of any age.
Content warning for fat/weight loss self-talk.
This is a review for the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge. You can see my full list of books here. You can find a full list of my reviews, and other posts relevant to the challenge, here.