Allen & Unwin
Imprint :Bloomsbury Child
Juliet’s mother died in a terrible hit-and-run accident. On her way home from yet another international photography mission documenting the heartbreak of war zones and disasters, she returned early at Juliet’s request and on her way from the airport was suddenly and terribly gone forever. Like so many of us who have lost someone so dear, Juliet cannot let go, especially of rituals, like writing letters to her mother as she has done all her life. Only now she leaves them at the cemetery.
Declan Murphy is known by his ‘reputation’. He’s tough looking and constantly confrontational, he’s spent time in jail, he’s doing community service and he spends most of his time skulking around trying to be invisible. Nobody knows the truth behind his attitude, not even his best friend realises the full depths of Declan’s story.
When Declan, as part of his mowing community service at the cemetery, reads one of Juliet’s letters, he is so overcome with empathy that he responds with his own comment. Outraged beyond belief at the invasion of her privacy, Juliet responds to him with undisguised contempt and rage. And thus a strange correspondence begins.
Along with that, a close and trusting relationship between two dreadfully despairing young people who do not know each other slowly builds. Or are they strangers?
Slowly but surely each is unravelling the real identity of the other and along with that an antipathy which belies the honesty and trust of their anonymous letter exchanges.
For both the healing process and the road to hope is their unfailing support for each other as their separate tragedies unfold and their defences are lowered.
The characterisation in this is excellent – even relatively minor characters bristle with life and emotion. I particularly like the ‘voice’ of both Juliet and Declan – though Declan’s intellect has been shrouded by other details this as well as his inherent compassion shines through. There is, as one might expect, from seventeen year old protagonists some low level swearing but it is all totally in context and expressive in itself.
There is a real twist in the tale which avoids cliché or triteness and is exactly the kind of ‘messiness’ that might happen in families. All in all it’s a terrifically engaging read and the reader develops a real affection for these characters.
Highly recommended for readers from around 14 upwards.