Monday, 4 November 2013

Stay Well Soon

Stay Well Soon by Penny Tangey (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $14.95
ISBN 9780 7022 4994 5
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

If only life went as Stevie dreamed about. She would have a pony and be accepted by the cool crowd of girls. And her brother Rhys’ problems would not suck up all of her mother’s energy.

This is Tangey’s first book for middle readers, a story about a girl negotiating new challenges in her life. Stevie’s mother is distracted by Rhys’ medical needs, and her long-term best friend suddenly has a new best friend. Marginalised by both the in-crowd and her own family, Stevie has to muddle along and fit-in with what others want. Her free-time gets sucked-up by long trips to the hospital with her brother, waiting for him to undergo procedures. Stevie soon realises she is not the centre of the universe. Nobody has even bothered to explain what’s happening, so Stevie needs to seek answers for herself.

Along the way she meets the self-assured Lara, also a patient at the hospital but unwilling to buckle down and follow the rules. Stevie is fascinated and makes a connection with the teenager, her first friendship outside of the school environment, her first taste of rebellion. Lara becomes Stevie’s partner-in-crime, her touchstone and role-model until the devastating truth of her situation hits Stevie.

This is ultimately the story of a child faced with life’s harsh realities for the first time. Punctuated by lighter moments, Stevie’s journey is nonetheless heart-wrenching as she takes her first tentative steps towards independence and has to deal with loss and grief.

A touching story of growth and coming-of-age for children aged 9 and above. I admit to shedding a few tears.

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