Outlaw girls by Emily Gale & Nova Weetman

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Outlaw Girls is the second co-authored novel by Emily Gale and Nova Weetman. In this historical fiction time-slip read, Kate from 1878 and Ruby from 2022, form a close bond of friendship and loyalty that lasts for a number of years. Both Kate and Ruby are talented horsewomen who live in Victoria’s High Country but come from very different circumstances.

The story begins with risk-taking teenager Ruby embarking on a shoplifting lark with her friends. This leads to a more serious act of theft and the consequences for Ruby are very telling. Sent to live with her uncle and aunt on a property for the school holidays, Ruby is denied access to her friends. Here she is expected to help out but often escapes chores by going riding. It is when she is out riding that she meets Kate. Ruby offers to help Kate and after some misunderstandings and confusion, finally accepts that Kate is from another era. Through a mysterious portal both girls travel back to 1878, where Ruby meets Kate’s family and realises that Kate is a Kelly, younger sister to Ned and Dan. Ruby learns about the hardships faced by the Kelly family in 1878 and becomes heavily involved in the lives of the family and their notorious bushranger brothers.

Throughout this novel, the two girls are constantly thinking on their feet to avoid being exposed as being from different times. They face terrible danger in the 1870’s but support each other through some tricky situations. Ruby forms a bond with Kate’s family and along the way learns some valuable life lessons.

This is a compelling read where modern-day teenage angst and privilege meets poverty and injustice in colonial Australia. The story of the Kelly Gang is legendary in Australian History but the two authors have ingeniously told the story of the Kelly women and how they supported their brothers and kept the family together. Teacher's notes are available.

Themes: Historical Fiction, Timeslip, Ned Kelly & Kelly Gang, Friendship, Loyalty, Police, Crimes, Family, Hardship, Horse riding, Colonial Australia.

Kathryn Beilby