Girl Saves Boy, Steph Bowe (Text)
This debut novel is alive with humour, verve, friendship and romance - not to mention lashings of garden gnome theft and lobster liberation. It is also unabashedly teenaged; the smart and snarky characters are delightfully kooky and have a lot of heart.
Girl Saves Boy begins with Jewel Valentine – loner, painter and head case – saving Sacha Thomas’ life when he comes close to drowning in the same lake where Jewel’s brother drowned a decade before. Jewel’s family broke down following the tragic death of her brother, and she has grown up prickly and independent. At the book’s open she is trying to adjust to life back with her mother, while mourning the death of her grandmother. Sacha has a complicated mess of problems of his own: a life-threatening illness, the death of his mother and his father’s new partner (one of his teachers from school). Sacha’s friends provide a good foil for the main characters: Little Al is a genius bogan - whose family are delightful and the comic relief - while True Grisham is an intelligent, driven young woman who came across to me as a bit superior and rather unlikable character but who relaxes and comes through at the end.
The opening chapters, in particular, were great - understated and engaging – and the dialogue was very good. Maybe being a teenager yourself helps your characters sound right…as much as Steph Bowe claims she is not your average teen! I thought it was funny, to the point of a bit strange, that we kept being given the characters heights; the characters were always talking about so-and-so being taller, or shorter and it made me giggle. The book suffers a little as a result of the almost overwhelming array of problems each character faces, but there is no doubt teenagers will enjoy the drama. The funny thing is, if this was real life I probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid, but reading it I kind of felt like the characters were almost one-upping each other with family issues and deaths.
Nevertheless, Girl Saves Boy is an excellent first novel by young author Steph Bowe, and I know that as she continues to write she will develop and hone her already considerable skill. She is certainly a very welcome addition to Australian YA.
I received this book for review from Bookseller+Publisher magazine. You can read my shorter review (though I’ve nabbed bits from there to put here) and also my interview with Steph in the current (September) edition.