I often think that debut novels are pretty special. I imagine that most of them are the final product of an arduous journey; of many months (or years) of great toil only driven by the hope that one day the story may see the light of day. It follows then that I feel quite honoured then to have the opportunity to review Clare Strahan’s debut novel, the contemporary YA Cracked.
Cracked tells the story of Clover, a fifteen year old girl, who, as the title aptly suggests, is pretty broken. As the daughter of single mother and hippie-arty-eccentric, Clover is an outsider at school, generally inept at conforming to mainstream youth culture. She befriends Keek, another misfit who is dealing with his own share of pain. In fact, the world that Strahan creates is one in which nearly every character, young and old alike, share the common trait of being fractured in some way. What follows is Clover’s descent, marked by a series of acts of defiance which threaten to take her to a very dangerous place from which there will be no return.
For me I found Clover to be an interesting and highly complex character with many somewhat contradictory qualities. She is quite sensitive and creative yet her propensity to act spontaneously, (or more accurately acting without any regard for consequences), is a trait I am more accustomed to witnessing in male teens. I found this viewpoint quite refreshing.
Cracked deals with a range of themes that a young adult audience will find engaging. In particular, Strahan explores the frailty of human relationships, the trial of trying to fit in whilst maintaining the true essence of who you are. To a lesser extent the story addresses issues affecting the environment and the search for one’s past, however for me, neither of these were fully resolved by the novel’s conclusion. Cracked is suitable for students in secondary years, however, some of the content (drug and alcohol use along with reference to sexual encounters), deem it appropriate for students in the upper years.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I did find it a little messy in areas and at times I did wonder where Strahan was directing my attention with the ending a little off the mark. I felt we left Clover thinking that all her problems were going to be resolved, when in fact, they were only just beginning. Perhaps in ending the story in this way, Strahan was simply reminding her audience of the messiness of reality and the tendency for real people to be blind-sighted in their decisions by the real issues at hand.
Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden
**Allen & Unwin provided me with a free review copy for this book. I have otherwise not been paid for any review or endorsement of this book and my opinions reflect my own unbiased view.**