Random House Australia
Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s
Extent: 400 pages
With this second novel, Nicole Hayes has absolutely confirmed her talent as a quality writer for young adults. We are all too aware of the intense scrutiny under which our politicians are placed – and often, rightly so – and the accompanying media feeding frenzy which generally accompanies this, but how often do we give thought to the effect of all this on a public figure’s family or children?
Hayes has taken this idea and crafted a stunning story revolving around Frankie (Francesca) Mulvaney-Webb, daughter of the Victorian Premier, Rowena, who has stepped up into that position and is now running for election to confirm her post.
Amid considerable antipathy from some quarters about having a female state leader, Rowena is subjected to a vilifying media campaign over her connection with an unknown young man. Woven into this fabric: Frankie’s new friend (potential boyfriend) who is a dedicated amateur photographer, who has unwittingly provided the ‘evidence’ of this questionable relationship, her young brother and father who, like the rest of the family struggle to cope with the glaring spotlight and open “slur” tactics, her rather eccentric Irish grandmother who appears to be keeping secrets, Frankie’s indie band and her relationships with her best friends, all of which combine to impact on Frankie and her life in ways which would have many of us running for cover.
Despite her life seemingly going completely pear-shaped, Frankie demonstrates strength of character which is both admirable and inspirational. Strong female characters abound in this novel which makes it a must-read for young women as they also navigate their way to sometimes fraught teenage years.
For those looking for novels which also deal with gay issues, this is a worthy addition to your ‘Rainbow’ collection as Frankie also deals with the developing gay relationship between her two best friends. Her difficulties in adapting to being a ‘third wheel’ would easily apply to many other circumstances and her struggle to bring herself to an acceptance with grace and warmth is a pattern for similar situations.
Lending itself well to philosophical debates such as: when does the political become personal, when is a secret not ours to share, how does a family demonstrate its unity in the face of overwhelmingly opposition, loyalty, love and commitment to a cause, there will be much to unravel in discussions arising from the reading.
An amazing book which demands to be consumed immediately, I know I for one will follow Hayes’ writing career with great interest.
Highly recommended for readers, particularly girls, from around 13 upwards.
Teaching notes can be found here.