Received from the Publisher
From the BLURB:
Frankie and Joely are best friends. They love each other like no one else can. But when a summer break in the country brings fresh distractions, simmering jealousies and festering secrets, can their friendship survive?
It’s the holidays and, together, Frankie and Joely board a train and escape the city and their mums for a week of freedom. But when Joely introduces Frankie to her country cousins, Thommo and Mack, it soon becomes clear that something other than the heat is getting under their skin. As the temperature rises and the annual New Years’ Eve party looms closer, local boy Rory stirs things up even more and secrets start to blister. Suddenly the girls’ summer getaway is not panning out how either of them imagined. Will they still be ‘Frankie and Joely’ by the end of their holiday?
‘Frankie and Joely’ is the new young adult novel from Australian author Nova Weetman.
We meet teenage friends Frankie and Joely as they embark on a journey to the outback – to visit Joely’s extended family – and, unbeknownst to the girls, test the limits of their friendship.
Frankie and Joely are thirteen and on the cusp of all that that means. Frankie is the beauty of the two, something Joely is only now becoming painfully aware of as her best friend draws more male attention. Joely’s mother is protective, in stark contrast to Frankie’s own who probably won’t miss her while she’s gone. These are just some of the tensions brewing beneath the surface of the girl’s friendship – to be slowly stripped away and exposed as they leave the city and head to the drought-ravaged country in the summertime, where these tensions rise with the heat.
I really loved this book that so transported me to my 13-year-old self – well, loved and struggled with my remembrances of how confusing that time was (thank you very much, Nova Weetman!). Frankie and Joely are at times prickly and precocious young women, and then they swing back to the tender middle-road of their long-standing friendship. I loved them, and I was frustrated by them – mostly because I saw so much of my younger self in their nastier qualities.
I related to Joely’s jealousy over her friend’s burgeoning beauty, which is highlighted by the reactions of her male cousins – Thommo and Mack – to Frankie.
As Frankie glances again to where Joely’s looking, she notices Rory staring back at them, a slight smile on his face, and she can’t decide whether the smile is aimed at Joely, or her, or someone else entirely. It’s creepy and thrilling at the same time.
I also related to Frankie’s awkward feelings at being permitted to view the inner-workings of her friend’s family from close-range, both as a guest and outsider.
‘Frankie. And Joely. What’s with all the boys’ names?’
'They aren’t,’ she says, sounding more defensive than she means to, but irritated at the order he said their names.
‘Round here they are.’
‘Yeah, I know. You’re from the city.’ He says the last word like it’s a taste that’s gone bad in his mouth.
Maybe it’s the darkness or maybe it’s being cross that Frankie was more interested in reading than in talking to her, but Joely doesn’t feel scared anymore. She could never usually argue with a boy she didn’t know, but tonight she wants to.
The book is narrated in third person, floating between Frankie, Joely, Thommo and Mack. I was thankful for the omniscient narration, as it becomes apparent that all of these teenagers would be somewhat unreliable as they map this complicated summer holiday of hormones and heartbreak. I also really enjoyed the too-rare third person in this YA novel because it allows readers to really see the girls develop over the summer, to watch them grow and mark the changes – particularly in sexuality and confidence;
‘Aren’t you hot?’ says Mack to Frankie.
She smiles at him, knowing he’d never understand why she was wearing a coat on a night like this. ‘Maybe I’ve got nothing underneath.’ She grins, amused as the thought plays across Mack’s face then disappears in an embarrassed growl.
I didn’t always love being in the boys’ heads, but that’s probably because I connected to strongly with the young women that I didn’t want to leave them. But Weetman uses Thommo and Mack to mark some equally brilliant revelations about the changing dynamics of friendship once puberty hits;
He realises this is what Mack does; he plays people, twisting situations to his advantage, even if it means laying others out to dry.
‘Frankie and Joely’ is a really beautiful novel. No character is perfect or perfectly likable here, and I appreciated that immensely – Weetman shows the myriad sides to teenagers on the cusp of young adulthood, highlighting the ways we tear others down to build us up, and the ways such nastiness often stems from our own insecurities and lacking. I feel like ‘Frankie and Joely’ is documenting the last days of young girl’s closeness – as such, it is a rare celebration of the complications of friendship (female especially) that will poke older readers’ nostalgia, and speak to young people’s current struggles quite powerfully.