All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: All This Could End by Steph Bowe

on February 27, 2020

All This Could End
Steph Bowe
Text Publishing
2013, 256p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

What’s the craziest thing your mum has asked you to do?

Nina doesn’t have a conventional family. Her family robs banks—even she and her twelve-year-old brother Tom are in on the act now. Sophia, Nina’s mother, keeps chasing the thrill: ‘Anyway, their money’s insured!’ she says.

After yet another move and another new school, Nina is fed up and wants things to change. This time she’s made a friend she’s determined to keep: Spencer loves weird words and will talk to her about almost anything. His mother has just left home with a man who looks like a body-builder vampire, and his father and sister have stopped talking.

Spencer and Nina both need each other as their families fall apart, but Nina is on the run and doesn’t know if she will ever see Spencer again. Steph Bowe, author of Girl Saves Boy, once again explores the hearts and minds of teenagers in a novel full of drama, laughter and characters with strange and wonderful ways.

Recently I was very sad to hear of the incredibly untimely death of Australian young adult writer Steph Bowe. She was published at a very young age, still in her teens I believe and was only in her mid-20s when she unfortunately passed away after a short battle with lymphoma. Steph is one of the many authors whose books I have seen ‘around’ frequently – on twitter, on blogs I read, on Goodreads etc but I had only read one of her 3 published books, Girl Saves Boy which I read way back in 2011. I read a little of her journey after her passing – I actually hadn’t even known she was ill until after I saw on twitter that she had passed away. I ended up borrowing both the books of hers I hadn’t yet read from my local library.

This is an unusual story! Not too many protagonists in fiction, especially YA fiction, have a family that rob banks for a living but that’s the reality of Nina’s life. Her mother grew up with a father who robbed banks and after he went to jail, she appears to have ‘taken over’ the family business. Her father is a school teacher who goes along with the bank robbing because he loves Nina’s mother. And when Nina turned a certain age, she was recruited to assist. She hates it – she’s counting down internally until the day she turns 18 and can leave, strike out on her own. She’s tired of moving every few months, tired of new schools and no lasting friendships. Although at her latest school, Nina has made friends….Spencer in particular. And Spencer has his own issues and his family feels like it’s falling apart.

I found a lot of this quite entertaining. Nina’s inner struggles are well documented, she really just wants her family to be somewhat ‘normal’, in that her mother doesn’t commit crimes in every small town they land in. She tries to protect her younger brother from being indoctrinated into the family business but Nina’s mother really does not hear a lot of her pleas. She’s very blinkered, Nina’s mother….focused on one thing and one thing only and doesn’t see how it’s affecting everyone else around her. I think she feels theirs is some sort of musketeer situation, all for one and one for all but the rest of the family are definitely struggling. I do wish a bit more was made to explore Nina’s father’s motives. I’m not sure “because I love her” is a good enough excuse to don a balaclava and rob banks every 6-12 months. Especially when you have two children at vulnerable ages. Well, this lifestyle makes any children vulnerable, because one slip up and their parents are banged up for 20 years. It’s Nina’s story but she really only tries to plead her case once or so to her dad.

I really enjoyed the friendship that forms between Spencer and Nina and loved Spencer as a character. He’s struggling with his home life as well and that’s excellently portrayed. He and Nina become quite close in a short amount of time and then she vanishes without warning…only to show back up again in the most bizarre of situations some months later. Spencer is dealing with the trauma of something his family experienced, which resulted in his mother leaving, his sister stopping talking and his father retreating from the world with an inability to cope. He’s somewhat forced to assume a more mature role, almost parental as he tries to protect his sister, especially when the school wants to investigate. His father is completely disconnected and seemingly either unable to cope or just processing things until he can cope but that means that practicalities and responsibilities fall to Spencer.

One part of me was like….well, how plausible is it that parents make their kids rob banks? But adults commit crimes and rope in children all the time. The banks were well chosen – rural, small town banks where the security was probably not as good as city banks, where there were less people. Nina’s mothers methods and opinions were honestly hard to sympathise with. She came across as a bit delusional more than once and her complete lack of regard for the safety of her children (also the innocent randoms in the bank) didn’t endear me to her either. But I really enjoyed Nina and her brother, as well as Spencer. This was a cute read that felt quite satisfying. I still have Night Swimming, Steph Bowe’s final book to read and I’m looking forward to it.

Book #27 of 2020

All This Could End was the 11th book completed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020

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