Review Blog

Oct 15 2014

Sandy feet by Nicky Buick

cover image

University of Queensland Press, 2014. ISBN 9780702253157
(Age: 14+) On an extended holiday along the coast of Northern Queensland, 16 year old Hunter struggles to get along with his family in the close confines of car travel and tent camping. His greatest irritation is Brad, a man who is awkward in his desire to connect with Hunter as a stepfather, yet unfortunately the harder he tries, the more the boy rejects him.  
There is constant tension within the group, and even everyday sibling teasing between Hunter and his sister (who has Down Syndrome) and the difficulty of caring for a young baby whilst camping threaten to cause heated exchanges within the family. The children's mother is a troubled soul, barely holding things together after a suicide attempt and details of a harrowing event involving the previous husband / father are revealed.
The story seems drawn out, however there is much to appreciate in the depiction of the characters and their thoughts and feelings are presented so well that readers will identify and understand them completely. Hunter's amorous feelings towards a beautiful girl whom he befriends on the journey are perceptive and authentic, as is his sense of loss and confusion caused by the absence of his father.
Past trauma has created a situation which is so complex that it is difficult for Hunters' parents to manage and the pressure leads to a toxic atmosphere which sometimes appears hopeless. Lack of honest communication and consideration for the needs of others perpetuate the painful interactions. A life threatening emergency which befalls a family member frightens everyone, prompting some unpleasant portioning of blame, however the crisis management demands support and cooperation which otherwise would not have occurred.
The suffering of Hunter, his mother, his father and his stepfather is eased in the story's conclusion, and I liked that the believability was maintained in the sense that the reader is not insulted with a 'they all lived happily ever after' conclusion. A positive and hopeful outcome is presented whilst the difficulties of everyday life are acknowledged and accommodated. I like this style and the book will have relevance for adolescent readers 14+ and may give some comfort to teens who find it difficult to cope with the behaviours of separated parents and new partners.
Rob Welsh

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