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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Review: The Reluctant Jillaroo

Heidi and Harper Gage are twins, living with their father in Sydney. Heidi loves sand, sun, surf and skateboarding, while Harper is all about wide open spaces and riding horses. When Harper trips over Heidi’s carelessly discarded skateboard, damaging her knee and ruining her chances of attending an important Jillaroo course at ‘Winmaroo’, there is only one thing to do. Heidi needs to trade her surf board for a saddle and go in Harper’s place.

Filled with fun characters, romance, humour and a mystery to solve, The Reluctant Jillaroo is another entertaining and enjoyable Kaz Delaney novel. Heidi’s attempts to cover for her sister and the constant risk of discovery keep the pages turning, as does the mystery of ‘missing’ items and suspicious ‘accidents’ at 'Winmaroo', a fictional property located in Scone in the Upper Hunter near Newcastle, NSW.

While the heroines of Delaney’s previous YA novels, Almost Dead and Dead, Actually, have a quirky, edgy appeal, it is Heidi’s generous nature and honesty that drew me into her story. She maintains her subterfuge because she wants to help her sister gain a vital reference for her agricultural college scholarship application, but she is constantly torn between doing what is best for Harper and her need to be genuine with the other teens at the camp, especially the charming Chaz and reserved Vee. This internal conflict ensures that Heidi’s actions never feel like a prank and give her character an appealing depth and complexity.

The Reluctant Jillaroo is a wonderful horse-focused story for tweens and teens looking for an intriguing plot with an element of romance. The mystery of the thefts and accidents and the constant worry that someone will discover Heidi is pretending to be Harper maintain a level of suspense. Heidi and Chaz’s attraction is all about the tingle of awareness without any serious sexual overtones, keeping their relationship suitable for a younger teen audience. Delaney’s trademark humour is also in place in the dialogue and antics of the teens at ‘Winmaroo’ and through Heidi’s sometimes bumbling attempts to fulfil her jillaroo duties.

A sweet rural romance for younger teens, The Reluctant Jillaroo is an enjoyable blend of humour, suspense and romance.

Title: The Reluctant Jillaroo
Author: Kaz Delaney
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: 4 January 2016
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781925266061
For ages: 12+
Type: Young Adult Fiction

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