This was a very odd little book. I downloaded it as an advance copy because whatever the publisher said sounded interesting, but by the time I got around to reading it I had completely forgotten what the book was supposed to be about. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but here I was just reeeeeally confused.
See, there are three stories going on at once, with almost no indication of the switch in narrator except that the names are different and each of these sections is preceded by “before”, “after”, or “later”, which are not the most descriptive words, really. In “before”, we’re following the story of Eliat, a foster kid who parties hard and just barely gets away with it; in “after” we’ve got Will, a kid with some serious self-confidence issues that proooobably stem from his dad disappearing and his mother all but; and in “later” we’ve got Sarah, a girl repeating her senior year at a new high school and trying really hard to move on after the titular accident.
Also, this book is super Australian, which is awesome because a) I was just in Australia and I miss it!, and b) we need more books that retain their crazypants original slang. It is less awesome because outside of knowing what Macca’s is (McDonald’s, which in Australia totally serves macarons what), I do not know these Australian slang terms and even my Kindle could only help me with half of them. It may be due to this need for an Aussie teen translator that I found myself a quarter of the way in and wondering, wait, are these stories supposed to connect to each other?
After double-checking with Goodreads that they were, in fact, connected, I soldiered on, but I still didn’t really get where the stories were going. Hendrick lets out details at a trickle, though she also lets them out right where they make sense in the story so fine, be that way, and it probably wasn’t until halfway through the book that I figured out how two of the stories were connected, and maybe three-quarters of the way through before I fit the other one in. Some of these connections seem kind of obvious in hindsight, though, so it’s entirely possible you will figure out the end of this book long before I did.
Once I did see where everything was going, I found the book vastly more interesting. Each of the teen narrators has issues that are not completely unlike the issues I went through in high school (not Eliat’s drug use, because nerd child, but definitely Will’s lack of confidence, because same), and the book really delves into how each of them, along with their parents and siblings and friends, deal with hardship and tragedy in different ways. I think the absolute best part of this book is that it takes the before/after dichotomy that I’ve seen before and adds that later — because there is a later, different from and probably better than the after, and I think that’s a really important thing to remember.
So, a slow start, but in the end a pretty decent book. And you will learn all the Australian slang. Bonus points for slang!
Recommendation: For… fans?… of teen tragedy books and those who secretly want to move to Australia. (Maybe not so secretly anymore).