Review Blog

Jun 26 2018

The things we can't undo by Gabrielle Reid

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Ford Street, 2018. ISBN 9781925736045
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Perception or reality? Is there a difference? We don't see things the same way on a clear day. Imagine first time lovers, slipping into a dark bedroom at a party - immature, shy, uncertain and unfortunately intoxicated. They have been secretly dating for a year, wondering what the other expects and under pressure from their peers at the party and popular culture in general.
Sam and Dylan are two star-crossed lovers in Year 11 moving clumsily together, toward a perceived rite of passage. Dylan senses mere consensual trepidation. Sam senses coercion but is unwilling to reject the boy she loves. Later, when Sam confides her regrets or perhaps her exploitation, to her best friend Taylor, Taylor begins a crusade to exact revenge on Sam's behalf. Sam's secret romance risks being exposed to Sam's parents, who have forbidden her to date whilst still at school.
The decisions and assumptions made on that fateful night and beyond, send Sam spiralling beyond the everyday depression caused by her parents' demanding academic and musical expectations.
One of the most compelling YA novels of 2018, themes of sexual violence and suicide may affect access, but The things we can't undo is a praiseworthy cautionary tale for both sexes. Just as John Larkin's The pause so successfully prepares teens for the terrible but temporary depression following the loss of first love, this novel is almost a survival checklist for 'losing one's virginity'.
Diary entries, letters and social media threads add to both reader engagement and the comprehension of polar viewpoints - not least the problematic self-righteousness of social media. Without these texts, we would only have Dylan's perspective.
The #MeToo phenomenon echoes as well in Australian suburbia as it does in the forests of Fredrik Backman's YA novel, Beartown. Gabrielle Reid proves she is easily as perceptive as writers like Backman and Joyce Carol Oats, when it comes to encapsulating the subtle contradictions of human sexuality, whether within a culture, a gender or within a single mind.
Deborah Robins

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