Random House AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Thirteen years ago, Frankie, Jack and Kate were almost inseparable. Frankie and Jack had been friends since they were both tiny – Frankie’s mother used to babysit Jack after his mother went back to work. They went through school together like best friends although somewhere along the way, things became a little different.
And then came Kate.
Kate was new to the school when they were about 16 and it was Frankie she made a beeline for and the two of them became best friends. Shortly after, Jack the jock and Kate, beautiful Kate, became an item and Frankie was in the middle of a very delicate juggling act. Kate was needy, often difficult but the two of them were as close as sisters, even though Kate occasionally would feel left out of Frankie and Jack’s closeness. And Kate hated feeling left out.
When they finished school, they went camping on a ‘schoolies’ holiday and Kate disappeared after Jack tired of her drama and broke up with her, determined to move on with Frankie, the one he should’ve been with. However nothing was ever the same after Kate’s disappearance – Jack was briefly a suspect and then he moved away to escape the stares and the whispers.
Now Frankie is nearly 30, unmarried and not connected to anyone when Jack buys the property behind hers. All of a sudden, everything Frankie has been suppressing – guilt, pain and so much more comes rushing to the surface. She and Jack have always been better together but there are complications. Jack has a ready-made family but as always, the two of them are drawn together. They want to be around each other but they still have so much unfinished business. In order to move on, move forward either together or separate, they have to know what happened to Kate all of those years ago.
Losing Kate is the sort of story that has a little bit of everything. On one hand, it’s a love story – Frankie (short for Francesca) and Jack have known each other since they were tiny. They grew up together, they were best friends. Somewhere along the way they started to see each other as more than friends but were reluctant (especially Frankie) to take that next step for fear of ruining the amazing friendship they’d spent so many years cultivating. Enter Kate, new girl at school. Beautiful, a bit crazy and she slips straight in, becoming best friends with Frankie and Jack’s girlfriend.
It’s also a mystery as thirteen years after Kate disappears, Jack pops back into her life. This brings back all of the feelings she’s crammed to the back of her mind right to front and center and she finds herself desperate to know what really happened to Kate. All Frankie knows is that Kate ran away from Jack on the beach after Jack broke up with her and was basically never seen again. Why did she feel the need to run when there was really no where safe to go? Was it an accident? Did she meet with someone who hurt her? And was what Kate told Frankie just prior to her disappearing really true? And if so, it means Jack lied to her. And if he lied to her about that, even all of those years ago, then she knows that the two of them have no future together because she’ll never be able to trust her. It’s important for Frankie to know the truth.
I think that most people, well most teenage girls have had a friend like Kate. Someone that you click with, who is fun and amazing when they’re happy but who can also be difficult and moody and make you feel like you’ve done them so wrong when really you have no clue what it is you’re supposed to have done. Kaden really captures this with Frankie and Kate, perfectly balancing the fact that Frankie loves Kate, enjoys her company and being friends with the effortlessly cool girl, at the time unaware of the fact that Kate does have some underlying issues that an adult picks up on but a teenager would be oblivious to at the time. Likewise the triangle is well done, which is a difficult thing to achieve. The scenes in the past are where this book shines, navigating the difficult teenage relationships with all their complicated layers and for Frankie, trying to achieve that balance where she gets to both keep Kate as a best friend and get to be with the person she wants to be with, who clearly wants her as well. I’m about the same age as Francesca, so her teenage memories of music etc are my teenage memories of music. It was a great way to connect with Frankie and her life.
In the present, nothing is easy. Jack has a partner named Sara and he deliberately hides his connection to Frankie from her for fear of raising her suspicion. It seems that Jack has a predisposition to picking women who are self-destructive and often difficult which made me wonder if he was trying to make up for what happened to Kate (or if I was just totally overthinking it and Sara was difficult because it made it easier for the reader to dislike her and want Jack and Frankie to have their chance!). Jack and Frankie have so much to work out, half truths, finding the real from the not real and the messy situation regarding Jack’s home life and it was interesting to watch them really work at it, sometimes making mistakes and taking a step backwards before they could go forwards.
A great debut and an author to watch in the future.
Book #74 of 2014
Losing Kate is book #29 read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014