When Only One
Meg Gatland- Veness
‘There’s someone in the school. Someone who’s not supposed to be there. This person is walking towards the classroom. They’re holding something in their hands. Something terrifying.’
Sam lives with his mum, dad and four brothers in a small farming town. At his school, there are three main factions: the rich kids, the mid-grounders and the farm kids who live on the outskirts. Sam is a comfortable mid-grounder and life is pretty good. He works as a lifeguard at the local surf club, is saving to buy his first car, he’s training with his friends for the Ironman challenge, and on Sunday afternoons he and his family take care packages to their less fortunate neighbours. Then, five years since they last spoke, Emily Burrow climbs back into Sam’s life and everything changes.
Emily’s life is very different to Sam’s – her absent father has returned and her mum struggles with her mental health. Sam does his best to be there for Emily when he wasn’t for so long, but there seems to be no right way to help her.
When Rei starts at school, Sam is smitten. Rei’s parents are social workers, she’s from the rich side of town, and her life seems a thousand miles away from how the kids on the outskirts live. In a world that’s ill-equipped to support kids struggling with unseen burdens, is there a way to help Emily before the worst happens?
From the bestselling author of I Had Such Friends comes a novel that’s gritty, full of heart and shines a light on kids who are doing it tough in a rural Australian town.
Where can I start? I was so impressed with this read! It’s gently written despite the emotive, evocative and difficult material it discusses. And for some readers, some of the issues raised here could trigger memories of events or actions that are distressing, Panterra Press hope those so affected will connect with https://au.reachout.com/
The book – the prologue sets a disturbing scene; a shooting in a school, who is involved, why? A grim but intriguing introduction to the narrative.
Each chapter begins with brief recollections of the incident by various people at the scene. These recollections juxtaposed against the chapter contents that recount events before and leading up to the shooting create tension and is a powerful and seductive device to engage the reader in this story of moral dilemmas, of life in a small rural town, of domestic violence, of poverty, of loss, of grief, of addictions, of mental health issues…this gently spoken book touches on so many contemporary issues. It doesn’t preach, it allows the reader to think, to assimilate all the background information and to ask their own questions.
A powerful and emotional read. 5 stars.
These sound like well-drawn, nuanced characters, Carol. I’m afraid that school shootings are too raw and close to home for me right now, so it wouldn’t be a good time for me to read this. But it does sound powerful and solidly written. I may put it on the list for when I’m ready.
Totally understand that Margot.
Sounds like a very good book. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it.