Darkwater by Georgia Blain
Random House, 2010. ISBN 978 1864719833.
(Age 15+) Recommended. The waterfront suburb is like an island, water on three sides, an enclave of well known streets, some shops, a school and the riverside, where the kids hang out after school and on weekends. Kids ride their bikes around the streets; they run messages, do chores at home, drop in to see friends. Their lives are uncomplicated. It is 1973; some smoke a little dope, others have close boyfriends and girlfriends, they all go to school together and most have known each other since kindergarten. But Amanda Clarke is dead: murdered, her body found half floating in the water near where they all meet. It splinters the group like nothing else. They become suspicious and wary of each other; their once safe suburb now locks its doors, with parents picking the children up after school, and warning them to be on their guard.
Winter writes her dairy, revealing the facts and beliefs of her group, speaking for the senior students at her school. She knew Amanda, but only as a girl in a higher grade, part of the group which included her brother, Joe. Through the diary the writer examines all the events surrounding the murder and so details all the characters. They become real people, grieving for their lost friend, but also harbouring beliefs about who killed this popular girl.
The book is a fascinating look at the loss of innocence, the change of a once trusting community to one where people look upon their neighbours with suspicion. And Georgia Blain has drawn this community with an elegant ease. No word is out of place, the whole is meticulously researched, the times recreated with an eye for detail which is stunning. From the intellectually disabled boy and his mother, cocooned in their house by the sea, to the women striving for some independence, the developer attempting to build on the last piece of untouched waterfront land, the green bans and intimidation within the building industry; all are part of a background which firmly places the story in the 70's. The school too, the wallpaper of the lives of its students, plays a part in the developing story which is redolent of the intertwining lives of this group of teenagers.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story and recommend its inclusion in secondary libraries and in a list of texts for year 9 and above.