Follow The Blue
Allen & Unwin, 2001
Who are you? Bec.
Who are you? Fifteen.
Who are you? Lovesick.
First my father had his breakdown. Then my parents went away, leaving a daggy housekeeper in their place. It was my fifteenth summer and I was tired of being good old sensible Bec. I wanted to be a wild and dancing kind of girl, so I dyed my hair, discovered magic, threw my first party... and then there was the boy thing...
Bec lives in Perth with her mum, celebrity chef Vera, and her dad, Lewis, as well as her younger brother Josh and her little sister Bing. When Lewis has a breakdown and has to spend some time in a hospital, Bec's world starts to tilt slightly. When Lewis comes home, everything is meant to go back to normal. Instead, the world just keeps tilting.
Follow The Blue is one of those read-it-in-a-day books, simultaneously about everything and nothing. "Following the blue" is how Bec frames the story, just one thread out of many tangled ones. When Vera and Lewis embark on a publicity trip for Vera's new book, first across Australia and then to the US, Bec is left at home with oh-so-serious Josh, crazy Bing, and their new housekeeper, Mrs D, who rubs Bec up the wrong way.
If that wasn't enough, Bec's friends are talking about boys and sex, while Bec wonders if she'll ever be interested in a boy at all. Her best friend has moved to New York. Bec's new friend, Jaz, is everything Bec wants in a friend, but Jaz brings her own complications: a hot older brother, Nick, as well as Nick's best friend, Steve. Add in missing guinea pigs, homework, and having nothing to wear, and Bec's head is swimming.
The book follows Bec's life during the few weeks that her parents are away. Nothing earth shattering happens, but that's what I liked about this book. Nothing earth shattering has to happen, because everything that does - the boys, the parties, the subtly changing friendships - are surely earth shattering enough as a fifteen year old. The story is actually one long flashback, and the writing fits perfectly: dreamy, almost, like the events are being remembered through a haze of summertime. There are no definite chapters, just a stream of snippets of conversations, images and colours that pull you in and take you along for the ride.
There were a lot of things I liked about this book. I thought Bec's relationship with Josh and Bing was brilliantly drawn, and Lowry captured that closeness between siblings that is different from anything else. I liked how Mrs D was woven into the story, and how she turned out to be not so bad after all. I liked how everyone did their homework. What I mean by that is: you know how in films when no one locks their doors? It seems like in a lot of YA, school is just one of those things that can be dispensed with. Everyone's having an endless summer. Here, school and homework are always there in the background. These were teenagers I could believe in, all zits and bravado and secret agonising.
If you like contemporary young adult, I would definitely recommend it as a quick and enjoyable read, quietly touching without overdoing it. This isn't quite a romance, nor a home-alone adventure, nor a high school book. Follow The Blue, in the end, is just about growing up.
Overall rating: 8/10
Book source: Borrowed from the library.