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Friday, 26 February 2016

Review: Clancy of the Undertow

Barwen is a dead-end small town where even the smallest difference makes you stand out. Sixteen-year-old Clancy has no chance of passing unnoticed. She’s bright, a loner, attends nature club, and has a crush on Sasha, the local hot girl. As if that’s not enough to make her the town freak, her family is now at the centre of a town tragedy after her father is involved with a fatal car crash.

It’s at this lowest point that Clancy is surprised by the unexpected; a new girl in town who just might become a friend and the longed-for attention of Sasha. With her father becoming the target of town anger, her mother’s silence, her brother’s weird conspiracy theories, and potential new friendships (and perhaps something more), it’s time for Clancy to work out what she wants from life. If she can.

Clancy of the Undertow, author Christopher Currie's first book for teens, is a thoughtful coming of age story narrated by a strong, authentic Australian teen voice . While Clancy’s situation is rather unique, the emotional and social challenges she is dealing with have a universality about them. She’s struggling to establish her own identity amidst the chaos and conflicting expectations around her, and her doubts, insecurities, hopefulness and humour seemed very familiar from my own teen years and from my observations of the teens I know now.

I particularly appreciated the contradictions within Clancy’s family relationships, which made them seem so much more realistic. Love and affection existed side by side with frustration and a careless disregard for the feelings of her parents and brothers. As in many families, their relationships were a tangled mix of shared experiences, emotions and practicalities that resulted in both everyday tensions and unquestionable support in the tough moments of life.

Clancy's voice is relatable and authentic, with a snarky humour balanced by occasional vulnerability. Her sexuality is dealt with sensitively. The scene where she lets her new friend know that she is gay is touchingly sweet and contrasts with a heartbreakingly harsh response from another character and a more practical conversation with yet another character. It is refreshing to see a LGBTQI character play a central role in a mainstream young adult novel.

Clancy of the Undertow manages to be both the story of a small town girl’s search for identity amidst family chaos, and a story that represents a general teenage search for acceptance, purpose and identity. This slow moving story is thoughtful and offers an interesting perspective on the teenage need to redefine themselves and the way they relate to those around them in the transition from child to adult.

Title: Clancy of the Undertow
Author: Christopher Currie
Publisher: Text Publishing, $19.99 RRP
Publication Date: 16 November 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781925240405
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult Fiction

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