Review copy provided by publisher
Allen & Unwin, March 2013
Synopsis- Julie has grown up not knowing her father, with just the occasional Christmas card and the knowledge that he flies planes for a charter company in New Guinea. When she comes to stay with him one long summer, she learns to appreciate not only her long-lost father and his love of flying, but also New Guinea itself and the people she meets. An awkward romance with a young expat contrasts with her growing attraction to the son of a local coffee plantation owner. And, left to her own devices much of the time, Julie learns to rely on herself and gain her own independence. A tragedy and then a mystery leave her reeling, but force her to evaluate what she really wants out of life.
Review- I don’t often read contemporary YA fiction, but I was drawn to this story because of the New Guinea setting and as the author is Australian. I’m so glad I read this, Constable has a great way of portraying the adolescent voice without it getting too angsty and boy-focussed- though there is a little romance, but I’m not complaining.
Set in the 1970’s, the opening scene introduces the reader to sixteen year old Julie who is off on her first overseas adventure; she’s left Sydney and her mother for a summer break in New Guinea to meet her father, the man who has been estranged for 13 years. Her father is a pilot for a Guinean airway and has lived there for over a decade. Julie is immersed into this new country and becomes acutely aware of the split between the Westerners (ex-pats) and the natives (nationals) on the cusp of much political and societal change. She is introduced to her father’s friends, the Crabtrees where she befriends 13 year old Nadine and 17 year old Ryan. She’s exposed to their complacent views about the divide in the country and Julie really struggles with her place in this new world.
Julie is someone who sees herself as average-looking and has never kissed a boy captures the attention of bored and sullen Ryan who seems to move their relationship along quite quickly before Julie even realises they are an item. Julie is quite passive when it comes to Ryan, she has her first kiss and she’s flattered by the attention but at the same time she’s overwhelmed by it and her intuition that tells her it just doesn’t feel right. Besides, she’s still thinking about Simon Murphy….the University student who she met back at the airport. Simon adds another dynamic to Julie’s experience of life in New Guinea, because he straddles the divide on a daily basis. His father is a Westerner and his mother a local, he goes to Uni in Australia and is bilingual and yet the Crabtrees and the ex-pat community aren’t very welcoming of him. Nevertheless, Julie is drawn to him anyway and an emotional connection develops between them as the story progresses.
Actually, with its cultural influences, overseas setting and issues around family and identity, New Guinea Moon reminded me a lot of a YA novel I picked up in India last year, Jasmine Skies about a young English-Indian girl who goes to India to meet her extended family. I thought it was a refreshing take on the YA genre with its focus on the adolescent discovering something new about themselves and where they fit it not just in their family but in the broader community and what they can give back. New Guinea Moon has a similar feel and I think it’s a story that readers of any age-group can appreciate and enjoy.
I’m so grateful to have discovered this author and wonder why I haven’t picked up any of her earlier titles previously- must rectify that! Highly recommended YA contemp read by a well established (I’m a little slow on the uptake!) Australian author, Kate Constable. Check by tomorrow for my Q&A with this talented author.
New Guinea Moon can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers
This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge: