When we are invisible by Claire Zorn

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The sequel to The sky so heavy, this time featuring Lucy as the main protagonist, was very difficult to put down. Lucy, Fin and Max are trying to recover from the devastating events of the nuclear winter in Sydney, as they drive toward Wattlewood, the sanctuary that their teacher had told them about. When they arrive, they find that it is like a compound, heavily guarded, and each person must prove their worth in order to stay. Lucy has doubts about how it is organised, and she is unsure that they are safe there.

Told in the first person by Lucy, the reader is drawn deep into her fears about life at Wattlewood, where one of the leaders, Jaxon, is controlling and into power. He does not appreciate a young woman like Lucy who speaks her mind, and Lucy is not happy with the stereotyped role that she is given, in the laundry and in the kitchen. However, Fin fits in as a guard and Jaxon manages to pull Max out of the depression that he had slipped into after the trauma of their stay in Sydney. Lucy also delves back into her past and her relationship with her sister, Bit, and the reader will empathise with the reason that Bit had anorexia and why Lucy is wary of men and of forming the relationship that Fin craves.

Although there is action and suspense as Lucy learns to hunt and the compound is shut down because of threats from the outside, themes of power, feminism and compassion are the dominant threads of this story. Zorn keeps the reader enthralled as Lucy weaves her way through the pitfalls of maintaining her own self confidence under a concerted effort by Jaxon to belittle her as he does Esther. Readers will be able to identify the means that violent men use to dominate women and will identify with Lucy as her sense of justice and compassion and her belief that outsiders should be helped, wars with the powerful Jaxon.

Although this is sequel, it can be read as a standalone and readers will want to pick up The sky so heavy if they have not read it. It would make a topical class novel or literature circle text. Teacher's notes are available, and you can listen to Claire Zorn talk about the book here.

Themes: Courage, Compassion, Community, Violence, Gender Inequality, Nuclear Winter, Spirituality, Eating Disorders, Power, Feminism.

Pat Pledger