YA is so hot right now and let me just say that Aussie authors are certainly doing their bit to keep the genre at the top of its game.
When Pieces of Sky landed on my desk the arty brushstroke cover drew me in immediately. Also the endorsement from Vikki Wakefield, whose ‘All I Ever Wanted’ is one of the books that first got me hooked on YA fiction.
Pieces of Sky is written by debut author Trinity Doyle, a former music photographer, graphic designer, and girl band member. From the very first page this story has a distinctly Australian feel to it which I really loved. Too often, in my opinion, YA books lack a strong sense of setting. For me this is a a critical element in making a story totally transportive. The small coastal town where this story is set is perfectly easy to conjure in your mind. The sunny, sleepy streets, surfboards strapped to car roof racks, shell wind chimes making music with the breeze and the zingy smell of salt water in the air.
Here lives Lucy. Lucy, who eight weeks ago had an ordered teenage life. She was the state backstroke champion, and swimming obsessed. She lived with her parents and her brother, Cam. She had friends, she had goals – she had a life. Then Cam died and her world imploded.
Lucy has stopped swimming. She’s struggling at school, side-stepping everyone at home and questioning the circumstances around Cam’s death. Was it an accident or was it suicide? As she begins to hunts for answers Lucy discovers much more than she expects. About her brother, about her family, and about herself.
This book delves into some weighty themes (depression, grief, as well as teenage sex) but it does so without a heavy hand. There’s a lightness of touch that avoids any teacherly overtones and shows insight that upper adolescent readers will find accessible. As a central character Lucy is someone you want to invest in. You feel her struggles and understand every misstep.
Lucy’s first real love arrives in the form of new boy in town Evan, whose hard-won maturity is a refreshing take on a teen male character. More than just a ‘boy’ Evan is an important part of Lucy’s exploration of the world outside competitive swimming. So too is the renewal of her friendship with ex-best friend Steffi, the wild free spirit Lucy was pretty sure she no longer had anything in common with.
The depiction of Lucy’s broken family, meantime, is raw and real. The intensity of the sadness they face following Cam’s death breaks your heart. But Lucy’s story ultimately isn’t a bleak one. It’s uplifting and by the final page you know Lucy is going to be OK. You know she can hold her head above water again.
Pieces Of Sky by Trinity Doyle
Allen & Unwin June 2015