Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Book Review | Cracked by Clare Strahan.

"A wonderful debut novel that captures the essence of real, messy teenage lives: of actions and consequence, of poor choices and fragile friendships, of standing up for what is right, and the attempt to make sense of a world when everything feels like it's falling apart.

At fifteen, Clover is finding the going tougher than she expected. Her life is close to being derailed on the rocky terrain of family, friendship, first love, acts of defiance and a planet on the brink of environmental disaster. So when Keek breaks his promise to her, and school sucks, and her mother is impossible, and her beloved old dog is dying, and her dad is in the wind, and the girls at school are awful and the footy-boys are bullies and she's arrested for vandalism  - well, what else can she be but a little it broken? Can Clover pull herself together - or will she spiral further out of control?

When life feels like it's fracturing, how do you find a way to feel whole?" (synopsis from (x)

Cracked is a quiet and lovely debut novel, with a quintessential Australian tone to it.

Clover is fifteen and she is not enjoying school. Her teachers suck, she doesn't have a lot of friends, and she is dubbed as the weird kid. After a minor incident with her teacher, Clover re-befriends Keek, a former-friend slash misfit himself. We watch as over the year, Clover learns about herself and what she stands for. All the while, she is hoping she won't break.

So, what did I love about Cracked?

First up, the tone. It was very, very clear from the get-go that this book was Australian. Everything from the country town to the slang. It was really well-done, and it wasn't ever overbearing. I think people who weren't Australian would still enjoy the book and not get confused.

This leads in a little bit to the writing. Hands down, it my favourite aspect of the story. I'm a sucker for good writing, and this story had really great writing. I adored it. I found myself reaching for the metaphorical highlighter. There were just so many quotes that I found relatable and interesting and profound. Loved, loved, loved it.

I also thought that most of the characters were well-rounded and sweet. I found myself relating just as much to Clover's Mother, as Clover herself. The interactions between all the characters were authentic and I just appreciated them.

The next opinion I have is in the middle ground. Cracked was this quietly compelling book. What I mean by that, is you could put it down for a few days and not care to read it. But the second you picked it back up, you got sucked right back into the story. I can't tell if that's a good thing or not.

Now for the not so great things.

Clover sometimes really annoyed me. I don't know if that's me starting to show my age (I hope not) but she just bothered me at times. I felt like she could be very selfish. I thought she treated her mother terribly. Sometimes I thought she treated Keek terribly. I couldn't wrap my head around it.

My other issue with the novel wraps neatly into my issue with Clover. I sometimes found the plot overdramatic. I can't tell if that was the author's intention (i.e. everything's dramatic to a teenager) or not. Specifically towards the end, when *spoiler alert* happened, I just found it a little unbelievable. I just don't think fifteen/sixteen year olds would do something like that. But, hey. Maybe I just have really sensible friends. I don't know. I just found some things entirely unbelievable. They were few and sparse, and that's why I think I noticed them more than I would've normally.

Overall, I think this was a really interesting story. Cracked is one of those quiet novels that creeps up on you. You suddenly find yourself caring about the characters, about what happens. I keenly appreciated the lyrical aesthetic to the writing. It's a solid debut from an Australian author, and I'm keen to see where she's headed.

Rating: *** (3 stars)
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: 1st June 2014

Want to buy this book? You can pre-order it here:
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for providing me with this ARC

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