'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Review: Writing Clementine

Life is not going well for Clementine Darcy. She is worried about her sister, her brother and the fact that she no longer seems to have anything in common with her two best friends. Add to all that a ridiculous class task where she has to write letters to the teacher each lesson. Surely she should be doing something more productive than that! Of course, there is also the unusual new boy at school to wonder about too.

Clem is desperate to find a way to help everyone feel better and be happy, but is it possible to ‘fix’ everyone and still be herself?

In a market filled with dystopian heroines saving the world as we one day might know it, Clementine Darcy is a refreshing dose of reality. A high school student starting Year 9, Clem is dealing with relatable issues – family dramas, school pressures, evolving friendships and romance. Her brother is battling with depression, she can’t seem to communicate with her best friends anymore and she just desperately wants to make everyone better.

There are some tough lessons for Clementine to learn through the book, including having to acknowledge that it isn’t her responsibility to fix the problems of everyone in her world. She also learns that suppressing her own feelings isn’t always the best way to maintain friendships, either with her best friends Cleo and Chelsea-Grace or with the sleazy 17-year-old boy who tries to take advantage of her good nature.

Romance is in the air as well, in the form of a steampunk-loving boy called Fred who seems to be very comfortable standing out from the crowd, but who has secrets of his own.

I passed Writing Clementine on to my 13-year-old daughter after I read it and she read it twice in three days, quickly claiming it for her own bookshelf. The characters are wonderfully engaging and real and the format, the series of letters written by Clementine to her teacher Ms Hiller, are an entertaining way of presenting the story and maintaining a sense of drama and suspense.

There are some very important lessons contained within the pages. In general, Clementine learns that she isn’t responsible for making others happy and solving their problems. More specifically, issues such as depression, sexual assault and peer pressure are mentioned. Despite these and other  important and relevant messages for teens, the book never lectures or comes across as moralistic.

I loved this novel and have already been recommending it to friends. My daughter is already keen to know when the sequel will be available. Clementine is a wonderfully real character with a way of expressing herself that will draw readers in, especially young teen girls who find themselves feeling a little adrift in the challenging landscape of ever-changing teen emotions and friendships.

Kate Gordon is definitely on my list of much watch authors for the future.

Title: Writing Clementine
Author: Kate Gordon
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $15.99 RRP
Publication Date: 25 June 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781743316634
For ages: 13+
Type: Young Adult

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