Twitter-style summary: Carly lives her life on the surface, not getting involved or noticed. Only when she surfs does everything else drop away – even her past.
This is me dipping my toes into commissioning a book with strong crossover appeal – it’s a YA novel, but the protagonist is 19 years old and this is a very personal narrative about how she lives her life in Australian coastal town Manly. There’s swearing and there’s sex, both of which can sometimes bring a gatekeeper out in hives, but are nonetheless important for teenagers to read about in a responsibly published setting. (Yes, I know that sounds pious, whatevs.)
I first heard about this by reading a post on The Crooked Bookshelf, where Carla raved about an Australian book that I’d never heard of. I’ve always felt a strong connection with YA from that corner of the world, finding the voice to sit perfectly between
polish and UK
grit (to talk in sweeping terms) and I started doing a little investigating…
The result of which is Catnip acquiring the rights to publish this emotionally engaging, beautiful piece of contemporary writing by Kirsty Eagar.
Kirsty has Voice. In her intimate first person narrative the reader is balanced on a knife edge: you’re really getting to know a person yet all the while sensing that they’re pushing you away. This book is not ‘about’ anything; I don’t view it as an issues book (the issue that Carly is dealing with is hard to read about but it’s presented as part of her history, not the focus of her story); I don’t see it as a ‘coming of age’ novel (living on her own and working a late shift at a kitchen to support herself I’d suggest Carly is already of an age); it’s not even about surfing itself, although when Kirsty Eagar writes about it, I can feel my bare feet on the board and taste the salt on my lips. It’s a snapshot into a life that isn’t yours and it’s painful to read at times, a note of melancholy tempered with the possibility of hope that in time all things will fade, that whilst your past shapes you, it doesn’t own you…
This book feels real – emotions are complex, forging friendships can be hard and when connections are made they may not work out perfectly. I didn’t know where the book would take me, but Kirsty Eagar’s writing led me onwards, sucked me in and left me moved. I feel very strongly that there should be more books like this in the UK market for teens to read, books that neither protect the reader nor push an unrelentingly harrowing agenda.
I am desperately proud to be in a position to publish this one.