Friday 5 April 2019

Promise Me Happy

Promise Me Happy by Robert Newton (Penguin Books) PB RRP $17.99 ISBN 9780143796442

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

At the start of this YA novel, 17-year-old Nate is being released from eighteen months’ detention in Croxley for assault during a robbery gone wrong with nothing much to take with him except a copy of The Old Man and the Sea, the only thing he has of his mum who is deceased. Waiting to take him into home custody is his Uncle Mick who lives by himself and who says, ‘looking after you (Nate) wasn’t something I factored into my life plan.’ Nate is just as reluctant to stay with Mick but there’s nowhere else to go.

On the way to his shack near the Glamorgan River at Oyster Bay, the two shop for provisions at a store where Nate sees an interesting girl with black hair buzzed short with a wisp of purple hanging down her face who’s wearing a green tartan skirt, black leather jacket and red Doc Marten boots. He’s not to know it but this girl – Gemma – is to become his first great love. When he and Gemma get together, the two start a business delivering groceries to people who live alongside the river.

The first half of this book is quite slow-moving, but matters take a sudden – and very surprising twist – near the middle of the book and it’s from here that Newton’s writing becomes more captivating and his story characters show their true colours. Emotions are heightened and the reader becomes more engrossed in the story. Nate confronts his father whom he feels twisted and bitter about, and he’s able to recover his mother’s prized possession, a guitar. His and Gemma’s relationship shifts into a much higher gear with the reader swept along by its intensity.

Certainly, by the end of the book Nate has matured much more and though he’s grieving, the reader knows he is stronger and will face the future with greater resilience. This book would suit readers aged 14+ years.

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