White Night by Ellie Marney
Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760293550
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Themes: Rural communities, Alternative communities, Secrets, White Night. Returning to school, Bo's year eleven career advisor asks why he is giving up cooking when he is so talented. But Bo is torn, should he go with what he really likes and possibly wants to do when leaving school, or stick with sports, and his father's aim of being a professional player.
Back at home in his close knit family, things are unusually tense: Mum is seven months pregnant, with Bo having more responsibility, his parents surprisingly argue, and Dad takes a phone call which leaves both parents anxious. There is an unaccustomed tension in this strictly organised house.
Into his world comes Rory, a new girl in the small rural school where all the students have known each other for years. From an alternative community, Garden of Eden, she has been home schooled, and arrives unprepared for fitting in. She and Bo ride their bikes to school along the same roadway and one day he stops and helps her with her old bike. He becomes protective of her, deflecting some of the flak aimed at her because of her willingness in class and odd clothes and ideas. Things come to a head when several girls, including Bo's friend, Sprog, put shit in her locker, and Bo, going to her place on the weekend feels more than friendship.
Bo is quite taken with the place where she lives; an alternative community of eleven people, living without plastics, mains water and electricity, growing all the food they need and recycling all they can. The ideas they promote seem invigorating to Bo, but his father warns him about going there, and when he arrives home late one night, he is banned from visiting Rory and Eden.
Sprog hates the idea of the closure of the skate park, and is encouraged to talk to the council to change its mind. When this doesn't happen, the students organise a White Night, a celebration with a DJ, light and music to raise finds to support the skate park's renovation, but the night coincides with things happening at Eden. The meaning of the term White Night is double edged: one as a celebration involving light and music, the other a mass suicide, as happened in an alternative community in Guyana in 1979. The reader is now transfixed as the two ideas come together.
Great characters make this a good read: the setting is beautifully delineated, minor characters hold their own against the stand out main ones and the community's secrets are engrossing. I found myself thinking out loud, 'ring the police' or 'just talk to each other' several times as I read, so involved was I with some of the issues the teens of the town had to deal with.