Thursday, 7 February 2013

Review: Rose By Any Other Name, Maureen McCarthy

Rose By Any Other Name

Maureen McCarthy

Allen & Unwin, 2008 (2006)

Don'tcha just hate the way you get caught up in stuff without really wanting to? You make a wrong move and before you know it you're in some weird scene that isn't you but... how do you get out of it?

Rose is all packed up. She's got a van full of petrol and a stack of CDs. She's got a surfboard in the back and a secret that won't go away. But that's okay. She also has enough attitude to light up the night sky.

Then her mother decides to come along... and Rose's road trip takes an unplanned U-turn, straight to the heart of last summer.

The cover of this book shouted two things at me: ROAD TRIP! and SURFING! (Quietly, of course, because we were in a library at the time.) Two things I am a big fan of in books. And Allen & Unwin, the Australian publisher, put out a lot of good stuff, including some really good young adult novels I've read in the last year. I was sold.

About ten pages in, I wondered if I'd made a mistake in picking this up, and this is why: Rose. Rose is perhaps the most aggravating, frustrating, bad-attitude-laden main character I've come across in a long time. Prickly and antagonistic, she's planned this whole road trip to Port Fairy to visit her dying gran, but at the last minute her mum has decided to join her, so Rose is a complete uber-bitch pretty much the whole way there - which is most of the book.

There are two lines that really stuck out for me, and might help sum up what pissed me off so much about Rose.

"Can't you just love the band without wanting to be the band? I wanted to scream at her." - This is aimed at her best friend Zoe, in one of the flashbacks to the past summer. Rose has a total boner about 'proper' music and being authentic and cool, and when Zoe gets excited about some band they go and see she's entirely mean to her for no reason.

"I'm only eighteen but I've already found what everyone else spends their lives searching for." - HOLY MACKEREL, BATMAN. Seriously. Besides which, the person she's talking about here is really not appropriate.

At the same time, though, I think McCarthy has really nailed Rose as a character. She irritated me, but she was also believable. As the book goes on, it becomes clear that all this hard-as-nails, screw-the-world stuff is just a cover up for a lot of crappy things that she's had to deal with, and by the end when she starts opening up a little bit, and starts to work things out with her mum and dad, it's quite a relief. There is a boy, but the focus here is really on Rose and her family, which I think is always interesting to see in YA novels. {Minor spoiler] I believed in Rose as a 'divorced kid', and a lot of her reactions and emotions seemed spot-on, but I was disappointed to see the all-too-common let's-all-be-a-bitch-about-the-stepmother and let's-not-talk-to-dad-for-months threads - again, while it was believable that Rose would react that way, I'd like to see a bit more variety when it comes to dealing with divorce.

The other storyline, focusing on one particular thing that Rose did the previous summer, seemed a lot less believable and just a bit weird.

Despite wanting to scream at Rose quite frequently, I enjoyed this book - a solid contemporary novel about family and life and figuring out what makes you happy.

Overall rating: 6/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.

Rose By Any Other Name counts towards my Australian Women Writers 2013 Challenge.


  1. I don't think I could read Rose, but thanks for the review.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  2. I have a hard time enjoying a book if I don't like the main character and Rose sounds like she would drive me bonkers. It depends though, because I didn't like Chelsea in the beginning of Hannah Harrington's Speechless but she gradually grows and becomes a better person and I quite liked that novel. It doesn't sound like the case here, though. Wonderful review kit. I'm glad you've added one for your Aussie Women reading challenge. I need to work on mine. :)

    1. I just finished Speechless, and I completely agree about Chelsea - she was so utterly horrible to start with, but then by the end I had warmed to her a lot more!

  3. I felt similarly to you, Kit! Rose was very annoying but she did seem quite real, so props to Maureen on her character development.


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