Review Blog

Sep 06 2012

Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield

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Text Publishing, 2012. ISBN: 9781921922701.
(Age: Upper secondary) Recommended. Vikki Wakefield's second novel is equally as intense as All I Ever Wanted, and equally as gritty; there's just more: more emotion, more power, and more conflict. Because, let's face it, a book with the same name as its main character is almost required by (literary) law to develop a character who defies convention, and who might be hailed as a game changer. A big ask.
Friday Brown is one such character. Her story is huge. Readers are given a taste of her young, impressionable life on the road with her mother, Vivienne, who is reckless, spontaneous, and slightly dangerous. Friday, now 17, and clearly influenced by her wandering mother, runs from the possibility of a stable home life the minute she is alone. Homeless by choice and grieving by circumstance, Friday's loss and loneliness is palpable.
Friday Brown, the book, is difficult to put down. This author doesn't muck around - there are no toffee apples or candy canes at this show. And Friday Brown, the girl, is difficult to pin down. She's drowning in grief, steeped in curses, and looking for her place in the world - looking in all the wrong places, perhaps. Once she becomes involved with a group of homeless youths, led by the charismatic Auden, she sacrifices her own values and beliefs to fit in. The depiction of Auden is interesting, if not original. The charming yet self-serving leader is cliched, and Wakefield pushes the trope into almost melodramatic proportions. Towards the end of the novel, when Auden's veneer is worn thin enough to reveal her true nature, there are some tense, insightful stand-offs between the two young women. It is great writing.
Both the city and country landscapes are luminous and real. A sense of place, integral to all the characters, ensures the narrative is grounded. While Friday stays in the city, it's clear she feels suffocated - she lacks confidence and strength. When we see her return to the country town the contrast is immediate. She takes charge, she shows courage and wisdom, and ultimately she recognises she's home.
Friday Brown is intense and absorbing. I hope it finds its way into many teenagers' hands. I would imagine it's most appealing to the upper secondary years. Themes include family relations, homelessness, friendship, and identity.
Trisha Buckley

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