Barnard’s debut is a very different kind of love story.
Caddy Oliver has just turned 16. It’s time she had a love story, so she’s created a list of three milestones to reach in the next year: get a boyfriend, lose her virginity, and experience her first Significant Life Event. This last is very important. Caddy’s life is ordinary and hopelessly average; surely something significant will change everything. And something does happen, albeit gradually and without Caddy’s realizing it, because the event doesn’t appear in the way she thought it would. A new girl in her seemingly all-white Brighton, England, neighborhood, the confident, blonde Suzanne, enters Caddy’s life. Suzanne is fun, a breath of fresh air, but she also seems to be hiding something. When she confides in Caddy that she had been repeatedly beaten by her stepfather before moving to Brighton to live with her aunt, Caddy becomes heavily involved in Suzanne’s life as she continually enables the latter girl’s self-destructive behavior in a misguided attempt to help her heal. Breaking the rules with Suzanne is thrilling, but their adventures only push Suzanne further down the proverbial rabbit hole. The narrative doesn’t minimize Suzanne’s pain and depression, nor does it simplify the gray areas for readers’ understanding. Through Caddy’s first-person narration, the complexities of such experiences are questioned by an outsider who doesn’t understand it but tries, because she loves her friend.
A beautiful, heartfelt appreciation of the importance of girls’ friendships. (Fiction. 13-18)