Fifteen year-old Hannah Moon’s family is falling apart and she had no idea things were this bad. Her beloved dad has left, her mum’s having a nervous breakdown and being in the same house with her brother feels like living with the enemy. Simultaneously, she’s navigating issues such as teen angst, her dubious yet wild best friend Chloe, and looking out for her isolated and mysteriously shunned grandmother, Essie. There’s also her first crush, which happens to be Chloe’s older brother, and a huge lack of confidence.
Gale also skilfully weaves in Essie’s tale of her harrowing experience in 1950s Sydney. Essie’s secret impacts the whole family. The usually shy Hannah has to decide whether she will fade into the background or rise above wild Chloe and her eccentric grandmother and make a difference.
What I loved most about Gale’s novel were the dual storylines, particularly the powerful writing within the 1950s storyline that portrayed Essie’s experience. The story draws the reader in, and throws out some unexpected plot lines making it hard to put the novel down.
Gale's characterisations are realistic as are the dual settings and the voice. The reader feels for Hannah and the confusing, sad time she is going through, as well as her need to protect her grandmother. Slowly, Hannah learns to become stronger and finds her voice. She steps out of the shadows of stronger females around her. She shows how mature and self-directed she can be and doesn’t feel the need to succumb to common teen enticements such as drugs, alcohol and teen sex.
A well written novel with a realistic and powerful historical thread.
Title: Steal My Sunshine
Author: Emily Gale
Publisher: Woolshed Press (imprint of Random House Australia), $18.99 RRP
Publication Date: 2013
For ages: 12+
Type: Young Adult Fiction