Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Things We Can’t Undo


The Things We Can’t Undo by Gabrielle Reid, (Ford St. 2018) 346 pp, ISBN 9781925736045   PB RRP $19.95

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

This appealing, fast-pace novel covers tricky subjects like consent, mental illness, suicide and the negative aspects of social media. It doesn’t pull any punches but is never gratuitous.

Year 10 students Samantha Jun Chen and Dylan West are in love. They’ve been together for nearly a year, so it’s no surprise when they leave Saturday night’s party to go into a quiet bedroom. What happens next will have a profound effect on both.
Did Dylan rape Samantha? He doesn’t think so. He’s totally pumped because he’s finally had sex with his wonderful girlfriend. Samantha has a different take on the experience. She wanted to say no, but she is a quiet girl not used to speaking her mind. Afterwards, she wishes she had spoken up. Samantha’s best friend Tayla is sure it was rape and sets about naming and blaming Dylan.

Samantha is a very average student who has to work twice as hard as everyone else because her parents expect her to be academically brilliant. They also believe ‘Boyfriends can wait until university’, so she’s had to keep her relationship with Dylan a secret. This means she has no one at home she can talk to honestly about what happened.   

The pressure from parents and friends, combined with her loss of trust in Dylan, has a horrific outcome. Over-stressed Samantha must find a way out. She chooses suicide.
The Things We Can’t Undo is Gabrielle Reid’s debut novel and it’s a gutsy read. None of the characters are totally black or white. As the book progresses both Tayla and Dylan develop and mature. The final pages describe Dylan carefully entering a new relationship.

Much of the story is written from Dylan’s point of view. Samantha’s feelings are recorded in the letters she writes but will never send. Tayla’s campaign to brand Dylan a rapist develops via online chats. The use of these various formats will appeal to its target audience.

If promoted sensitively, The Things We Can’t Undo should be a winner with readers from Year 9 upwards.

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