One True Thing
Random House AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Frankie is the daughter of the current Premier of Victoria, a woman who was chosen by her party after the previous Premier resigned to spend more time with his family. Now there’s an election coming up where the people have to vote to return Frankie’s mother to make her the first elected female Premier of the state. Everything in their life at the moment revolves around politics and image. Frankie’s mother is subjected to rather vicious attacks from radio and print shock jocks, there are always photo opportunities to go to, events to participate in. For Frankie and her younger brother, it’s somewhat second nature but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t intrusive.
But then something shocking surfaces about Frankie’s mother. She’s been caught in what could be a very awkward situation both for her politically and also for Frankie’s family personally. Even worse, her mother refuses to explain the photos. Frankie is subjected to humiliation at school, she’s harassed and badgered by the press outside her own home and she cannot bear the hurt her father must be experiencing. Her whole family is being dragged through the mud in public and on top of that she has a best friend who is acting strangely and then she discovers that the cute boy who likes her and that she might also like, is the one who betrayed her and her family in the worst way. Her entire life is falling apart and the one person who could fix it, utterly refuses.
One True Thing is the second YA novel by Nicole Hayes. In her first, The Whole Of My World she tackled football and this one takes a very different swing toward state politics. Frankie’s mother was Deputy Premier of Victoria until the Premier resigned and her party gave her the top job. Now it’s the public’s turn to decide whether or not to vote for her in and the election campaign is in full swing. One True Thing examines the effects being in such a public spotlight might have on a relatively normal family – mum, dad, 2 kids. Frankie and her younger brother Luke are constantly juggling their social commitments with events they need to ‘be seen’ at with their mother. Frankie lives with the constant presence of her mother’s staff and top advisers in her home, particularly given the election is so close. Some of these people have become just as close as family.
Frankie is half my age, but her passion is music, particularly the grunge bands of the 1990s – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden etc which is basically playing my song. As I write this, I’m listening to a Nirvana album. Recently I went to one of the Readings bookstores in St Kilda and when I was in there, they were playing a live Nirvana CD and I’ve been listening to them and some other bands from my high school years on and off ever since. I go through cycles with music, revisiting high school and university likes regularly. Frankie’s dedication, particularly to Pearl Jam is admirable and impressive and reminds me of my own high school days locked in my room listening to the albums of those two bands and others from that era.
One of the biggest issues in politics is – how much is the public entitled to know about the private lives of those they vote into public office? It’s something that’s happened on all levels, from local members right up to the President of the United States of America. Are their personal lives really any of our business, if they’re good leaders (and even if they’re not?) What business is it of ours to know whether or not they like to sleep with people other than their spouses? It’s not illegal. That’s not something that relates to their job and should it only be something that need concern their spouse? Doesn’t stop journalists from latching on to the smallest whiff of scandal and running with it even if they have no idea what’s happening. In this story it appears as though Frankie’s mother is seeing a much younger man – there are pictures splashed across the papers while the social and political commentators (that seem largely based on people like conservative hacks Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt) spew whatever filth they consider their opinion with little regard for anything remotely concerning facts, let alone decency and discretion, particularly for the Premier’s family. Frankie in particular is subject to a lot of cruelty as her friends are older and more socially aware, better able to read between the lines and are more likely to be the audience. Although I could at times, understand her mother’s refusal to clarify her relationship with the man in question because why should she? It’s no one’s business apart from hers, his and possibly her husband’s, I do feel as though she made a choice that significantly affected her family with little real sight of what the consequences for her silence would be. And that choice made others, Frankie in particular, feel less important to her.
This book also pokes a bit of sly fun at the ‘slogans’ politicians trot out whenever journalists are trying to take the focus off their message. In this case, it’s ‘Getting back to the business of running Victoria’. These slogans usually mean little and their continual usage only serves to irritate most people who would rather have clear and precise answers to their questions. It ties in with the above issue though – how much are we entitled to know? And unless the questions is about the message, about their issues and policies, is it even entitled to be asked? And if it is continually asked, then maybe they merely deserve the same tired old answer every single time.
I enjoyed this book a lot – I liked the presentation of politics through the eyes of an affected teen and the little extras with the romance and her friendships as well as the mystery behind what her mother was really doing. Another fantastic Aussie YA from Nicole Hayes.
Book #97 of 2015
One True Thing is book #39 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015