I tend to like contemporary YA novels written by Australian authors so whenever an opportunity comes up to read a new one I will take it. Out of This Place by Emma Cameron is a beautifully written verse novel that originated in Australia under the title Cinnamon Rain. It is a good story and a powerful one that I enjoyed with some reservations.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Luke spends his days
hanging out at the beach, working shifts at the local supermarket, and
trying to stay out of trouble at school. His mate Bongo gets wasted,
blocking out memories of the little brother that social services took
away from his addict mom and avoiding the stepdad who hits him. And
Casey, the girl they both love, longs to get away from her strict,
controlling father and start anew in a place where she can be free. But
even after they each find a way to move on and lead very different
lives, can they outrun their family stories — and will they ever be able
to come together again?
I have said before that verse novels don't always work for me. I need to believe that it was the best way to tell the story. And in this case Cameron made believe that. Her words are well chosen and the imagery she uses vivid. The way she uses them sparingly and yet tells so much is artistic. Like this take on Casey from Luke's perspective:
If Casey lived
in another time or place,
she'd be like a fountain-
bubbles reaching everyone around her.
she's as still
as a leaf-littered pond,
dark water evaporating,
waiting desperately for rain.
I enjoyed the shifting perspectives and how some of the events overlapped but were told so very differently highlighting how each individual sees the circumstances differently. I also liked the realistic portrayal of the harder aspects of Casey and Bongo's lives while not allowing the story to wallow in darkness. I did think the turn around in Bongo's life was a little unrealistic. I wanted to see him succeed but in a way that was more likely to actually happen. It is possible my incredulity about this may be due to lack of knowledge in the way things operate in Australia though.
Overall the novel is a good one, another excellent addition to the many wonderful Australian imports we have received in recent years.
My one reservation is in the way sex is used and portrayed in the novel. I am not naive enough to believe that everyone shares my opinions on the subject of sex nor that teens aren't having it in exactly the ways Luke, Casey, and Bongo are. My concern is when sex is portrayed as something inconsequential or simple. Yes Casey is left with a lasting reminder, but she far too easily disregards most of the experience including her partner as inconsequential. All three do. Sex is complex and layered and when it is treated so cavalierly and easy it bothers me. I like when novels tackle this realistically, but I prefer for there to be more balance.
Despite this misgiving of mine, it is a good book and I really enjoyed the way Cameron ended it. At first I thought, "What? That's it????" It took a disgruntled ten minutes for me to decide I would not have wanted it to end any other way. She leaves so much room for the imagination. I was just annoyed because I enjoyed spending time with these characters so much.
Content Warning for Concerned Parents: As stated in the review there is some sex. Drinking and drug use are also referred to.
I read a copy made available from the publisher via NetGalley. Out of This Place is on sale Tuesday, May 13.