Solo by Alyssa Brugman

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Allen and Unwin, 2007
(13+) Uncontrollable, destructive and at odds with the world, Mackenzie is sent on an outback camp, where she must suffer counseling and activities designed to build trust and communication. She decides that she will undergo the final activity, but has no idea about how she will cope by herself for 24 hours.

Driven to the designated area, she is told she must erect her own tent, build her own fire and fill in the time alone. Disdainful of any help or suggestions, she strikes out, ready for anything, but is unprepared for the revelations of her own thought processes. As the time passes, her words and actions reveal layers of meaning and destruction within her family. She talks about her father being a chemist, but questioned by people about this, told she is a liar. There is a death of someone close to her, but just who it is, is not revealed. She remembers playing hopscotch when the thief breaks in, but then cannot connect the thief with any other event. Delving into her past causes anxiety attacks.

The minutiae of her childhood life build along with the tension of her survival in the wilderness, until she reveals to the reader and herself what has happened to her. Until that moment we are all in awe of the strength of the girl, Mackenzie as she repels all attempts to help her. Mackenzie is a finely drawn character. We feel we know her through and through, but just as questions seem to be coming to a conclusion, she brings up other events, other thoughts, which unravel the web we have pieced together.

Brugman has developed an incredible story of a child whose family has disappeared beneath her. Events beyond her control have shaped her life for the worse, and she must recognize this and attempt to rebuild it. I followed her with my heart in my mouth and then immediately reread the book to make sure that Mackenzie will succeed, so engrossed was I with this girl's life. Girls particularly in secondary school will find this book gripping.
Fran Knight