Shauna's great expectations by Kathleen Loughnan
Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760631574.
(Age: 16+) Shauna is on an Indigenous scholarship to Oakholme, a prestigious boarding school. She's in her final year and she's excelling at French and Maths, and dreams of going to Paris with her equally smart friend Jenny, before going on to study journalism at Uni. She has a great group of dorm friends, dubbed the 'ethnics' by rich country girl Keli, who gives them all a hard time. Keli has mastered the art of covert racist taunts and seems to have all the teachers' approval.
I thought the novel gave a particularly insightful expose of the frequent ineffectual response to bullying in schools despite the good intentions of teachers and the espousal of an anti-bullying policy. Shauna and her friends just have to swallow their anger, occasionally managing a smart retort.
Things start to become more complicated for Shauna at school. She's asked to mentor the latest scholarship recipient, Olivia, who is full of attitude and clearly doesn't want anything to do with her. And she discovers that her summer romance with country boy Nathan has brought its own complications...
When Shauna finds that some of her dreams are going to have to go by the wayside as she takes on the responsibility of an unplanned teenage pregnancy, the tone of the novel is strongly pro-life rather than abortion, and the drama is how to get the school to accept a pregnant student. Shauna's ambitions change, she is proud to be a good mum, friend and student, but how she is going to achieve her further study is left unclear. It seems to be enough that she has chosen her own path and has the support of family and friends.
The strength of the novel lies in its affirmation of friendship, and working through relationships to better understanding, even with the most difficult people. The friends' conversations and conflicts will resonate with many YA readers. However I am not sure why the author took on the persona of an Aboriginal girl - is this an authentic voice, or a device to distinguish this book from other school stories? You can read about Loughnan's views in the teaching notes available online.