Sunday 24 March 2013

Freia Lockhart’s Summer of Awful

Freia Lockhart’s Summer of Awful by Aimee Said (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978192977800
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

School is over and Freia has ended her friendship with the vain and spiteful three Bs, and has made a new group of down-to-earth friends, Vicky, Sooz and Steph. She also has Dan.

Holidays have barely started when Freia’s world is rocked by the news that her health freak mum has breast cancer. Both she and her brother Ziggy go into denial, refusing to ask about, or face, what this means. Consumed by thoughts of Dan and his feelings towards her that haven’t been clearly stated, Freia obsesses with these problems to avoid thinking of her mother’s illness. She also finds it impossible to share what’s happening with her friends.

Freia’s summer is ‘hijacked’ when her overbearing Gran Thelma comes to stay during her daughter’s illness, bringing with her a screeching parrot and obsessive knitting habits. At 80, she is energetic, can SMS on her Smart phone at the speed of light, walk without panting, and maintains a romantic involvement.

Dad escapes Gran by retreating to his study while Ziggy spends all his time at his mate Biggie’s place. But Freia is forced to endure Gran’s company for Dan suddenly goes to his mum’s for Christmas. Things become too much for Freia, and having distanced herself from her friends, and with Dan being away, she finds it hard to cope with all that’s going on in her head.

But the summer of awful doesn’t end as it started. The bad things take a turn for the better, including the way Freia hides from things she won’t face. Her brownies are in great demand at Switch café owned by Jay, with whom she has become close friends. Freia’s resentment of oldies recedes when she acknowledges that Gran has many redeeming qualities. She also learns that in love, things aren’t always how they seem, and that friendship is sharing all the parts you are, as well as the parts you are not.

This is a fantastic and entertaining follow-on from Finding Freia Lockhart. Written in a light-hearted narrative with hilarious asides, Freia Lockhart’s Summer of Awful addresses themes that encircle teen angst: the insecurities that come with first love, the confusion that is born from threats to family stability, and in real friendships, the importance of sticking together and sharing your problems no matter what.

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