Review Blog

Feb 17 2009

Girl next door by Alyssa Brugman

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Random House, 2009. ISBN 978 741663389
(Ages 12+) The family has all the trappings of having made it, a million dollar house in a cul de sac, the kids at a top private school, and holidays in Mauritius and Vanuatu, what more could they want? But it all falls to a shuddering heap when dad leaves, mum loses her job and the baby she is carrying, Jenna-Belle is escorted from her school for non payment of fees and the sheriff moves in to evict them from their house.
What is important becomes clearer as time goes on; living in a caravan in a bogan area, Jenna-Belle looks more closely at her life. The boarder, Bryce Cole helps them with their moves but he is a chronic gambler with problems of his own, and eventually dumps them. Jenna-Belle's best friend, Declan, who lives next door also offers support and sympathy, but he seems more interested in furthering his sexual experiences than helping out Jenna-Belle.
Brugman uses a finely tuned sense of humour to get across the naivety of Jenna-Belle, so enamoured of the group she mixes with at school, who slight her at every opportunity. But she takes it because she and her family think they have made it. Even when sitting in an all night cafe, drinking the coffee given them by a kindly waiter, the family has not made an active decision about what to do. It all seems rather like play acting, and when the story is resolved, a little too quickly and neatly, the family does not seem to have learnt anything about their former extravagant life style.
I found Jenna-Belle interesting and entertaining, but was disappointed with the final wrap up of the story, but middle school readers will lap it up.
Fran Knight

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