All the little tricky things by Karys McEwen

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Alberta, regularly known as Bertie, is due to start High School in the new year, and this book is set after her Primary School graduation and in the twilight before the dawning of new experiences at her new school. Transitions can sometimes be hard, but Bertie is enrolled in a private school at least an hour away from her old school in her small-town community, and Bertie is fearful of many of the ‘little tricky things’ she will face. Bertie will be separated from all her current classmates, but most of all from her long-term friend, Claire, and this brings with it a plethora of insecurities and uncertainties. Bertie has for many years been Claire’s shadow and has seldom needed to be assertive in any way. Claire though has confidence in abundance, and prepares a list of ‘challenges’ that will prepare Bertie for change and prepare her for the new life ahead when she is on her own in the big, wide world.  Some of the listed challenges are easier than others and a hint of a wedge becomes apparent in the friendship between the two girls. Bertie must decide how to proceed and to grow with or without Claire’s guidance or driving influence.

This is a gentle but insightful story of the dilemmas of life and friendship for a young girl in transition. Puberty and relationship issues, family change, independence, growing into adulthood when you are not quite ready to leave childhood are all a part of this journey. Bertie is a likeable character, an only child in a loving family, with real struggles that are simple and understandable. Karys McEwen has been able to enter the psyche of an ‘ordinary girl’ who is about to step out of the comfort zone of small-town childhood without over-dramatising the struggles she faces. Young 10-13 year-old students will connect with the uncertainties and feel the friendship struggles and enjoy the journey as Bertie discovers that she is stronger than she thinks. There are moments of angst, but also opportunities for friendship recovery and growth. McEwen has demonstrated that a commonplace story can connect with readers and that characters do not need to be badly behaved to create drama. This is a book that touches emotional strings and makes a tuneful note rather than a discordant twang. Teacher's notes are available.

Themes High school, Friendship, Transitions/Change, Fear.

Carolyn Hull