All The Books I Can Read

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Review: The Girl In The Gold Bikini by Lisa Walker

on February 5, 2020

The Girl In The Gold Bikini 
Lisa Walker
Wakefield Press
2020, 254p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Whenever I see a girl with a gold bikini, I think of Princess Leia. Here on the Gold Coast, gold bikinis are common, so I think of Princess Leia a lot.”

Eighteen-year-old Olivia Grace has deferred her law degree and ducked out of her friends’ gap-year tour of Asia. Instead, she’s fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a private investigator, following in the footsteps of Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars – who taught her everything she knows, including a solid line in quick-quipping repartee, the importance of a handbag full of disguises, and a way of mixing business with inconvenient chemistry.

Playing Watson to the Sherlock of her childhood friend, detective agency owner Rosco (once the Han Solo to her Princess Leia), Olivia pursues a routine cheating husband case from the glitzy Gold Coast to Insta-perfect Byron Bay, where she faces yoga wars, dirty whale activism, and a guru who’s kind of a creep.

Olivia Grace is a teenage screwball heroine for the #metoo era, and The Girl with the Gold Bikini is a body-positive detective romp, rich with pop-culture pleasures.

The Girl In The Gold Bikini is a fun new contemporary Australian young adult release from Lisa Walker, split between Surfers Paradise on Queensland’s Gold Coast, and Byron Bay in northern NSW.

Olivia Grace has just finished school and although she has an offer from a university waiting for her, she has avoided a gap year in Asia and instead has taken a job as an assistant in a private detective agency. It’s the opportunity to live those childhood dreams out – Olivia is an avid Nancy Drew fan and she wants to be in the thick of investigations, rather than completing background checks and doing paperwork. She’s working for Rosco, a childhood friend that she used to play with…..but as they got older they drifted apart. Now, back together, it’s a bit of a different vibe now that they’re adults, which Olivia occasionally finds a bit confusing.

A big new case gives Olivia to try her hand at some new things – speed dating in disguise, yoga, stakeouts and more. But it also involves returning to Byron Bay, a place that for Olivia, has been the source of bad memories for several years. She’s never told anyone except her best friend why but this case gives her a chance to confront those past demons and make some new memories in Byron Bay.

This was a huge amount of fun to read! I love reading Aussie YA (well all sorts of YA but Aussie in particular) that revolves around that period of life between school and what comes next – university, if that’s your choice hasn’t started yet, future plans are not concrete. Olivia has taken a job working at a detective agency, which sounds amazingly glamorous and interesting but often involves periods of not much happening. Olivia’s life get a lot more interesting however, investigating a yoga guru and a sushi chain as well as a surfing prodigy who has vanished. I enjoyed both of the main settings – Olivia lives and works on the Gold Coast, the detective office being in Surfers Paradise, the kind of tourist hub of the Goldy. It’s full of shops selling cheesy souvenirs to appeal to tourists and the famous ‘meter maids’ in their tiny gold bikinis are ever present. And then there’s Byron Bay, a hippy haven and now the playground of the wealthy. I grew up a few hours south of Byron Bay, in a town with a similar vibe (less alternative, but that same laid back beach life) and I’ve also been there recently and seen how it’s changed as well, as it’s become more popular and those with more money have moved in for the peace and tranquility. For Olivia, it’s also the source of a terrifying event which continues to haunt her.

I think a lot of people will relate to Olivia and her experiences – the limbo between school and what comes after, not knowing how to feel about the university offer and whether that’s really what she wants to do with her life. And also her experience in Byron as a 15 year old and how she dealt with it. I think a lot of people will have similar stories unfortunately and will have dealt with it the same way. I enjoyed her relationship with both her youthful Nan, who enjoys a colourful outfit and wants Olivia to get out a bit more and live a little, and also her relationship with her much younger sister. Olivia ends up having quite a lot on in this book, she’s forever back and forth to Byron Bay, she’s going speed dating, she’s ending up at theme parks, she’s drawn into activist groups, she’s taking her younger sister to her sporting commitments, she’s pushing herself out of her comfort zone, trying new things etc. The case itself (or several cases, they kind of become intertwined after a while) are deceptive – they don’t look like much at first but the deeper Olivia gets into it, the more twisted and interesting it becomes. There’s also a dash of romance, which I was quite into as well! And there are times when Olivia has a vulnerability, a bit of childishness to her that still makes you remember that she’s only just finished school and although she’s legally an adult, she’s still growing and maturing and working her way through life and her feelings. It made her very relatable.

I always enjoy Lisa Walker’s books and this one is no exception.

8/10

Book #15 of 2020

The Girl In The Gold Bikini is book #5 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020


2 responses to “Review: The Girl In The Gold Bikini by Lisa Walker

  1. Claire Louisa says:

    Yours is the second review of this I’ve read, definitely one book I’m now eager to read.

  2. Lisa Walker says:

    Thanks Bree! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

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