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Thursday 17 October 2019

Review: Promise Me Happy

Promise Me Happy opens with Nate the main character, being released from Juvie. 

He is picked up by Uncle Mick, his dead mother’s brother, and taken to an area surrounded by water where oysters were once harvested. There Mick lives on frozen, packaged food while he cooks for his dog Barry who has allergies. Mick has sadness in his eyes, the residue of something broken in him.

Nate meets the mysterious and magnetic Gem, the girl who works at the local store, and Henry, who is not Gem’s brother but lives with her and her mum. 

Gem is smart and sassy, and as attracted to Nate as he to her. Henry is clever, but different to other children, therefore somewhat marginalised. He loves the water and is as familiar with the area as with his breath that goes in and out.

Gem has secrets. Nate thinks he recognizes the marks. He had seen them often enough on his mother’s face and arms. But he is wrong.

When Mick tells Nate he should get his boat licence and take up the job of deliveries to the houses around the lake, Nate is astonished at his show of trust. For the first time in his life, a sense of worth surges in him.

Gem changes Nate. She dispels his fears of becoming brutal like his father, and he discovers that there is hope in life for him.

But there are the town bullies to contend with and Gem’s secret soon becomes a visible threat. She has taught Nate how to live and love. Now she has to teach him how to live without her.

Promise me Happy is a superbly written, character-driven novel that flows and is full of depth. Themes of family violence and abuse are as strong as the ones on renewal, love, loss and the strength of the human spirit.

The importance of water to the character’s healing is a main feature in the story. The damaged people and the rebuilding of their lives intertwine with the solace of the river and its pathways that flow out and back, offering hope and possibility.

Title: Promise Me Happy
Author: Robert Newton
Publisher: Penguin Random House, $17.99
Publication Date: 7 May 2019
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780143796442
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult Fiction