1st March 2010, Bloomsbury
247 pages, paperback
Young adult, 12+ coming of age story, some violence, teen romance, laughter, tissues needed
Carly’s recommended rating: 8/10
Everything is changing in Emily’s life. Her older sister Kat is just starting university; Dad and Cassy have bought an old house which will be their dream home one day...except that while it’s being done up, they’ve all got to live in a tiny caravan in the middle of a field.
Then a throwaway comment starts Emily thinking about her real mother, who left when Emily was a baby. Who was she? What was she like? Why did she go? Over the years, she has become the unmentionable secret in Emily’s family.
And as Emily pieces together a truer, fuller picture of her mother, she also embarks on a new relationship of her own with Seb, a beautiful boy with fine features and expressive dark eyes...
Julia Green has always been a firm favourite of mine; partly for the teenage themes she writes about with unyielding understanding and honestly and partly for her writing style, which flows calmly and easily off the page, making each of her novels a joy to read. I’m pleased to report that Drawing with Light is no exception and, once again, Green has hit a home run.
Emily is an immediately likeable character who I really did care about as the novel progressed, which I think is so important in young adult literature. If I don’t care about the protagonist then all is lost but Emily is smart, funny and, refreshingly, not picture book perfect. As she undertook her quest to find out more about her birth mother I really did want her to succeed and as she sat constantly checking her text messages to see if Seb had texted her, I was right there with her.
I think everybody remembers their first boyfriend, the first time they went through the longing, the excitement, the fear of rejection and Green writes it fantastically. For me, the strongest part of the novel is Emily’s relationship with Seb, which is both delicate and powerful, the way teenage love should be.
This novel (and all of Julia Green’s novels actually) reminds me of Kate Cann’s fantastic stories of summer romance and characters finding themselves in the least likely places. I adored those books in my teenage years and Green has managed to spark the same emotion of excitement within me when I read her stories. Who ever thought a lost girl with no direction would find out who she really is (and find a boyfriend) in a cramped caravan in the middle of a desolate field?
On a more technical note, I particularly enjoyed the story being told in first person. It felt more intimate that way, as though we really got a sense of Emily’s feelings and thought processes, as opposed to being told how she felt by an anonymous narrator, we really begin to understand the person she is, and the person she’s becoming as the story progresses.
If you haven’t read this gem yet then I strongly suggest you do. It’s a perfect summer read and if you liked this one then check out Breathing Underwater, also by Julia Green, for more of the same fantastic characterisation and wonderful story telling.
Visit the lovely Julia Green at her website here.