All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: White Night by Ellie Marney

on February 21, 2018

White Night
Ellie Marney
Allen & Unwin
2018, 367p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

In Bo Mitchell’s country town, a ‘White Night’ light-show event has the potential to raise vital funds to save the skate park. And out of town, a girl from a secretive off-the-grid community called Garden of Eden has the potential to change the way Bo sees the world. But are there too many secrets in Eden?

As Bo is drawn away from his friends and towards Rory, he gradually comes to believe that Eden may not be utopia after all, and that their group leader’s goal to go off the grid may be more permanent – and more dangerous – than anyone could have predicted.

A wonderfully compelling novel from the acclaimed author of the Every series.

I love Ellie Marney. I would probably read her grocery list. Who am I even kidding, I would definitely read her grocery list. The Every series is one of my favourites of all time. In fact recently the teenage daughter (mad reader) of a friend of mine came to my house for the first time and was going through my YA shelves for something to borrow and I was like none-too-sublety pushing the Every series. She took all 3 of them and I saw her the next day at school, already almost finished one. Because that’s what those books do to you!

We move away from the world of the Every series to rural Victoria and Bo, a high school student. It’s the beginning of a new school year and Bo will have school, sporting commitments and chores at home to juggle. Bo has this great family unit – he loves and admires his dad, respects him. His father is tough on him, making sure he knows that school and chores at home have to be a priority. His socialising is restricted and when Bo’s father gives a directive, it’s expected to be followed. Bo also has a younger brother at the local primary school and the family will welcome a new sibling in a couple of months.

This book encapsulates so much of my teenage years. Both my parents were quite strict as well – I’m the oldest and with everything I did, my parents were breaking new ground and they always erred on the side of caution. My brother enjoyed so much more freedom than I did – for me it was a constant struggle to prioritise things so that I could attend all the events I wanted to but also be seen by my parents as ‘making an effort’ school-wise in those later years. Bo finds himself pulled in many directions, especially when new girl Rory (short for Aurora) starts at his high school and things start to fall apart at home.

Along with balance, there comes fitting in. Rory is different – she lives in Eden, a commune style property on the outskirts of town where the residents live off the grid, growing most of their food and bartering or exchanging for other needs. They’re vegetarian and until now, Rory has been homeschooled. She’s an easy target for some of the teens at high school, who always enjoy making fun of what’s different and what they don’t understand. Eden has a somewhat shady reputation around town but when Bo visits with Rory he finds himself nodding along to their charismatic leader about chemicals in food and a more idyllic lifestyle. Bo has a social conscience, so I think he wants to believe in a better way – fresher, home grown food. Less processed food. Less chemicals. I think he’s also quite surprised and impressed by the amount of freedom that Rory has, which is in contrast with the rules and running things by his parents sort of upbringing that Bo has had. As a teen, that sort of thing can sound heady… tasting freedom for the first time, or seeing the freedom of others, can put a lot of ideas in a mind. Rory has been raised in such a different way that so many of the most basic things of Bo’s existence are foreign to her and their exploring of each other’s worlds is really interesting.

Bo also has to deal with a family situation which weighs a lot on his mind. I really loved the exploration of Bo’s father as a person – what had shaped him. Bo is forced to accept that no one is perfect and that his father is human, a person who has made mistakes and is now having to rectify them. His father’s background was very interesting and this was done very well. Marney writes family relationships in all their beauty and ugliness in such believable fashion. It was so refreshing to see such a caring family unit who were so present in Bo’s life – and how he felt when suddenly, that unit changed. I also really liked to see Bo agonising over his elective choices. There was a class he quite wanted to do but it would’ve meant swapping out of a class that people would’ve expected him to take. There’s a lot in this novel about perceptions and Bo really needing to take the plunge and be who he wants to be, not what other people think he should be or even what he thinks he should be, based on the fact that he’s a teenage boy.

For me, this was a book where I read it and thought yes, I loved this, it was great but in the time after reading it, mulling it over, thinking about the review, thinking about different aspects of the book, I’ve come to realise how cleverly it weaves so many things topical to teenagers but without overcrowding the story. Teens will see themselves represented here, in so many different ways. How awesome was Sprog as the unlikely, devoted and determined hero? Yep you could argue that the Eden ending was predictable but it doesn’t mean that the impact is lessened…..nor that it’s unrealistic. In fact history will tell you that it’s alarmingly believable.

A gripping, multi-layered story that has reserved a spot on my favourites list.

9/10

Book #31 of 2018

 


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