Before the beginning by Anna Morgan

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This coming of age story centres around four teenagers who have finished high school and are off to schoolies – though two of the group are unaware of the fourth person attending. Grace needs a break from her judgemental circle and asks her brother if she can join him and his friends for schoolies – far away from her group. Casper agrees, but neglects to let his friends, Noah and Elsie, know the change of plans. Now out of Melbourne and in the full swing of being out of school, the group awkwardly starts out their schoolies week, and find themselves swept up by a mysterious stranger, Sierra, and her plans to camp on the uninhabited island. They join her in camping on the island and the group starts to realise they each have something they are struggling with, and that Sierra isn’t being completely open with them. 

It’s great to see an Australian coming of age story, especially one so complex. The characters are relatable and are experiencing real struggles ranging from self identity issues, relationships and anxiety to life goals and direction. The story flows from one character’s perspective to another, with occasional definitions or news articles, giving the book a similar vibe to the Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson and One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus. Well written with descriptive tones, the story is a lovely example of how great Australian YA books are for contemporary readers. 

Themes: Coming of age, Anxiety, Relationships, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary.

Melanie Phillips