Romy Bright (Crystal Bay Girls #2)
Puffin Books (Penguin Books AUS)
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Romy hasn’t exactly had a conventional upbringing. For a long time it was just her and her mother, moving around, living in share houses. Then her mother met Cam, they got married and Romy had a more permanent home. Cam and her mother had two children, Jarvis and Everly and they became a family.
But now Romy is fourteen and what she wants is a bit more freedom. Her stepfather Cam is working long hours at a local radio station and her mother owns a florist. Lately her somewhat flighty mother has been even more so than normal and Romy finds herself suddenly babysitting her younger brother and sister more often than not. She’s picking them up from creche, cooking them dinner and putting them to bed. And it’s impacting on her life.
Romy plays guitar and with her longtime friend James makes up the band Indigo Sky. But in order to prepare for their first real gig, Romy needs to have time to practice and when her mother disappears off to Sydney for a week she’s needed at home more than ever. Only her burgeoning feelings for newcomer Matt remain a bright spot in her life as James drifts away. Determined to win Matt, Romy changes her look, not even realising that she might be overlooking the right one who’s been there all along.
Romy Bright is the second in the Crystal Bay Girls series following on from Quincy Jordan. Romy lives for music and her ‘girl cave’ where she gets to practice with her bandmate James. Her home life however, is slowly crumbling as Romy’s mother seems to be distancing herself from the family. Romy spots her getting out of a mysterious black sporty car late at night and although she keeps this information from her stepfather, she stews on it herself, agonising over what’s going on. The more she has to do at home, the more she resents her mother.
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Romy – she’s only fourteen. That’s really still quite young and she really does do a lot of caring for her young siblings, especially sister Everly. I only had one brother who has 3 years younger than me but I had friends that had much younger siblings and quite often, they shouldered a lot of the care. Like Romy, they also came to resent their mothers/parents for what often equated to hours and hours of unpaid babysitting, cleaning, cooking etc. They would miss regular teenage outings with their friends whilst being stuck at home minding the younger children. I think it’s quite often a terrible burden to place on a teenager although there are families out there who have little choice. Often the mother is a single parent and working or like in Romy’s case, there’s another parent but he’s working hard as well. However, I felt that Romy’s mother was incredibly selfish in this book and it wasn’t particularly justified. She not only took off on the family for a week to ‘clear her head’ she did it at a time when Romy had something really important to her coming up. It just seemed very wrong. I’m a parent and I’m the first to agree that there are times when you need some time out, time to yourself. To remember that you’re a person as well, not just a parent responsible for the little people. But to run out and basically leave Romy to pick up the pieces was definitely not right. I actually feel like this was not particularly well resolved and that Romy’s mother gave rather weak excuses for what she was doing, to both her children and also her husband. Romy was entitled to her anger but at the same time, she was a fourteen year old girl who needed her mother and she was hardly going to be in the position to really demand a decent explanation and not just a weak one.
I really enjoyed the rest of the book – the characters are on the young side of YA, this is more MG so it’s really quite sweet and innocent. Romy is rather taken with newcomer Matt who is 17 and she immediately feels that the only way she might get his attention is to update her look to a more grown up one. This is something a lot of younger teen girls can probably relate to, having a crush on someone a little older who is just a bit out of reach. I like the core friendship group of Quincy, Esme, Romy and Lou quite a lot and I like the fact that these books aren’t overloaded with drama. They’re simple and rather sweet and most things get resolved by the end. Looking forward to the next 2, Lou and Esme (or maybe Esme and Lou, not sure what order they’re coming in!). These are great transition books for younger readers who are outgrowing children’s books and they’re the sort of books I’d have probably been desperate to read when I was in middle to late primary school.
Book #148 of 2014
Romy Bright is the 56th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014