Published by: Hachette Australia
ISBN 13: 9780733637216
Published: February 2017
Format reviewed: Paperback from publisher
Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five
Renee is brought up in one of the rougher parts of Sydney by her young mother and nanna – her father is in jail for murder, and although she has a stand-in grandfather for most of her life, things aren’t exactly stable. Her mother prefers to go out drinking and dancing through Renee’s formative years, and when her nanna dies suddenly of cancer in her early years of high school Renee is at even more of a loss than usual.
As she gets older, Renee struggles with a lot of things – school is of huge concern even though she’s smart, because children can be so cruel and Renee just wants to fit in. Aside from the family troubles, Renee struggles with her weight and mental health and can only bully and threaten and plead with those around her for what she wants – but never getting what she needs. Although her mother sometimes has good advice (in how she doesn’t care what job Renee gets as long as she’s happy), Renee wants to hear her mother proud of her grades and encouraging her to be a lawyer instead.
This is a hard read because it certainly gets a whole lot heavier before we get hints of the goodness. Renee feels pushed out of her family when her mum falls pregnant to the latest man in her life. She meets up again with her father. She goes through abusive relationships and suffers through events that she continues to blame herself for many years after – even though she is the victim.
Luckily, there is hope and the book ends with Renee in a healthier space, seeing a mental health specialist, and then an epilogue of where she is now. We live in the same state – Renee now lives in Alice Springs and works in community services (more specifically in child protection) – something she could truly excel at as in some of the rougher areas of the Territory, the kids don’t listen to adults who don’t truly understand what they’ve been through.
This is a hard, heavy and depressing book to read, but it also has such weight and value in its pages. There is no shame in lives like Renee’s, and only healthy thinking and supportive discussion can hopefully help people walk away from the violence and seek help earlier. This is recommended reading (with trigger warnings for many things – rape, abuse, violence…) and though it’s a hard slog, it’s a story that needs to be told and McBryde does so in an engaging and devastating way.