Review Blog

Aug 08 2019

As happy as here by Jane Goodwin

cover image

Lothian, 2019. ISBN: 9780734419231.
(Age: Younger teens) Themes: Friendship, Coming-of-age, Courage, Identity, Trauma. When 13 year old Evie is hit by a runaway piano while crossing a Melbourne street she ends up in a hospital ward with two other girls, Lucy, who has pneumonia and leukaemia, and Jemma who has had an emergency appendectomy. The girls are very different but thrust together in hospital where nothing is private and they are divorced from their normal lives, they learn to rub along and support one another as they work through their various issues. Evie, whose badly broken leg may prevent her resuming running training, is worried about disappointing her dad. Lucy, who has had many hospitalisations, is very self-contained and thoughtful. 'Sometimes Lucy reminded Evie of an adult, someone who had learnt not to cry or tell people how she felt.' p. 73. Jemma is selfish and inconsiderate, curious about the other girls' lives, but lies about herself. For a long time she has no visitors and it soon becomes clear that she has no family, just a foster mother, Paulie, and her dodgy boyfriend Steve. When the girls witness some suspicious behaviour in the park below their ward window Evie and Lucy want to tell the police but Jemma is afraid of them so the girls investigate on their own. Accepting their differences and working together they develop as individuals. They see Jemma's disadvantage and how she copes - 'she looked up at them, her face defiant, as if she couldn't bear for anyone to feel sorry for her' p. 18, and Jemma for once has the support of friends. She is able to contribute in a positive way when Evie gets her first period. When the girls leave the hospital to go and stop the crime things go very badly. Lucy and Evie wonder about life and chance and how they can move forward. Is it really random what happens to us as Lucy's dad suggests? 'We have to be here, as happy as here, and do our best to deal with whatever comes along' p. 258. Evie settles on changing the question from 'why' to asking herself 'what she would do now that they had'. p. 260.
A thoughtful book for younger teens about friendship, kindness and courage contributing to personal growth. The girls' voices sound authentic even if the mystery is a bit convoluted.
Sue Speck

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