The date I read this may be a little out, but the timing is not. I devoured this book in a sitting. It is a compelling and heart-wrenching story, and the writing is spot-on. I was taking with a friend recently about reading books that have a moment where you are thrown out of the story because of a bum note in either the plot or the characterisation – there’s none of that in here. From the first page I was sucked into the claustrophobic, despairing and tense predicament that Tessa finds herself in. Hayes deftly weaves the past and present together in chapters named ‘Then’ and ‘Now’, slowly revealing Tessa’s life in all its gritty, difficult, messy, shameful detail. This is reality fiction at its finest. Tessa’s mother, Ellen, is clearly realised. A recovering alcoholic, we are privy to Tessa’s contempt for her and her promises to go straight this time.
Then…She wanted to believe her mum – that this was it. That things would be different…But…Tessa had to fight off this feeling like she did all the other things she knew would lead to disappointment. How else would she hold it together?
Still. It had been two months, and her mum was really trying. Three weeks straight of making lunches and asking about Tessa’s day. Curling up in front of the TV at night, both of them, together.
Two months of no arsehole and no booze. Half of it spent out of bed too.
Tessa’s longing and distrust are palpable. Kids want their parents to be the adult, no matter how much they push against the confines of being a teenager, but it is clear that Tessa has had to be her own parent.
In addition, Tessa is negotiating her way through the endless minefield that is high school. Despite having Nick as a boyfriend, most of the students at Carrima High treat Tessa as someone to be avoided at best, and, at worst, a total weirdo to be mercilessly mocked.
Just as in real life, every character in this story has secrets, and as Hayes reveals them we are slowly dragged into terrible and shocking realisations about Tessa’s past life and present situation.
To say any more would be to reveal too much. Suffice to say that tissues will be required.
I recommend this to all readers teenaged and above. All the feels.