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Friday, October 9, 2015

'Inbetween Days' by Vikki Wakefield


From the Blurb:

At seventeen, Jacklin Bates is all grown up. She’s dropped out of school. She’s living with her runaway sister, Trudy, and she’s in secret, obsessive love with Luke, who doesn’t love her back. She’s stuck in Mobius—a dying town with the macabre suicide forest its only attraction—stuck working in the roadhouse and babysitting her boss’s demented father.

A stranger sets up camp in the forest and the boy next door returns; Jack’s father moves into the shed and her mother steps up her campaign to punish Jack for leaving, too. Trudy’s brilliant façade is cracking and Jack’s only friend, Astrid, has done something unforgivable.

Jack is losing everything, including her mind. As she struggles to hold onto the life she thought she wanted, Jack learns that growing up is complicated—and love might be the biggest mystery of all.

InbetweenDays’ is the new contemporary YA novel from Australian author, Vikki Wakefield.

It’s taken me so long to get around to writing a proper review of this book because a lot of crazy things have been happening lately and I’ve found myself getting so busy … I had to come back and do a re-read of Wakefield’s new gem before I could sit down to write a proper review, and in doing so I re-discovered a little slice of literary calm in the midst of my hectic waking life. A novel to take me completely out of myself; enjoying eating up Wakefield’s richly imagined small-town and the complex fighting character of Jacklin Bates – and I’m reminded all over again of what a captivating author Vikki Wakefield is.

‘Inbetween Days’ is about Jack, who has a complicated relationship with her sister and the boy she wants more from. Jack lives in a town that has a ‘suicide forest’, where people frequently go to die, and I particularly adored the town of Mobius – a setting that’s as rich and complex as the characters and impacts on them a lot. Mobius begs the question; what does it do to a town that’s a dead-end (literally) for so many people?

Morning arrived late to our town and night came early; it was ten by the time the sun made it over Pryor Ridge and around four when it ducked behind Mount Moon. Everything in Mobius stretched to reach the light: we built out houses on stilts, our trees grew tall and spindly, our shadows were long.

Now, tell me that little description doesn’t have the ring of Harper Lee to it?

Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer's day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men's stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.

(P.S. – that’s one of my all time favourite slices of writing, from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’)

This novel has Vikki Wakefield covering a lot of new territory – a real break away from ‘Friday Brown’ and ‘All I Ever Wanted’. For one, she really delves into matters of “romance” which were glancing blows in her first two books – in ‘Inbetween Days’ there’s a love triangle of sorts (a very Vikki Wakefield triangle, to be sure) and I’ve got to say I particularly appreciated reading sexual politics being negotiated by Wakefield’s Jack, a young woman who is piecing together the difference between sexual desire and true intimacy.

I also loved the dynamic of Jack’s relationship to her sister, Trudy, who she has moved in with after dropping out of school. Mim in ‘All I Ever Wanted’ may have had some dubiously strapping older brothers, and Friday Brown had what started as an oddly sisterly-sick relationship with Arden, but in ‘Inbetween Days’ Wakefield really delves into this tricky familial bond with fascinating results;

Trudy lunged. She grabbed my arm and dragged me off the bed. I hit the floor, bellowing. Trudy hauled me up from behind, digging her fingers into my armpits and shoving me along in front of her like a sack of manure. At the bathroom door she gave me one hard shove. While I leaned over the basin, she ran the shower.She elbowed me in, fully clothed, without waiting for the water to run hot.

I loved reading Jack and Trudy scenes – there’s something visceral in Wakefield’s writing them, I can practically taste the adrenaline when they corner each other like that.

But there are also many aspects to ‘Inbetween Days’ that make this a wholly beautiful Vikki Wakefield book. Like, for instance, the writing of marginalised characters from lower socio-economic backgrounds. I think when youth literature talks about ‘We Need Diverse Books’, it’s often racial and sexual diversity that gets talked about the most – but really all kinds of diverse characters are needed, and a rather insidious common portrayal of white middle-class characters often pervades youth lit. Wakefield doesn’t hold to that – she constantly challenges with her books. In all three she has written characters who are struggling – they don’t have a fixed address (like Friday and her mother) or they’re in constant trouble with the law (Mim’s family in ‘All I Ever Wanted’). This is explored again in ‘Inbetween Days’, with drop-out Jack whose regional town is dying so thoroughly that she finds herself without a job … Wakefield’s characters remain some of the truest and most vital to modern Australian young adult literature.

‘Inbetween Days’ is Australian YA gothic. It’s at times bleak and tender, with touches of romance threaded with heartache, all playing out in a town that’s dead and dying. As anyone who has read a Vikki Wakefield novel knows, it’s near impossible to completely summarise her stories; save to say it’s another ‘must-read’ from one of Australia’s best young adult authors writing today.

5/5  





2 comments:

  1. Great review - I loooove Vikki's writing - she consistently writes such interesting stories and characters & I am so excited to read this one. (Also aren't all those covers just great together?)

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