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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

'One True Thing' by Nicole Hayes

From the BLURB:

When is a secret not a secret? When your whole life is public.

Frankie is used to being a politician's daughter, but with her mum now running for Premier, life's a whole lot crazier than usual. All Frankie wants is to lose herself in her music. So when her best friend, Kessie, invites a student journo to interview the band, Frankie is less than thrilled.

But Jake's easy to talk to, and he seems to really like Frankie. That doesn't stop her from wondering if he's just after the ultimate scoop, especially when photos surface of Frankie's mum having a secret rendezvous with a younger man. With her family falling apart around her, Frankie is determined to find out the truth – even if it means losing Jake.

‘One True Thing’ is the second novel from Australian young adult author Nicole Hayes.

I actually finished reading this book two months or so ago, but I’ve been so far behind in my review-writing that I’m only now getting round to it … moved to sing this book’s praises both because it’s great, and because an event helped me form my opinions about Hayes’ novel.

Victoria’s first (and to date, only) female Premier died this year. Joan Kirner wasn’t politically perfect – among her hindsight mistakes was the roll out of pokie machines in Victoria – but she was a kind and gutsy leader who kept giving back to the community long after she left politics behind. She was also a formidable female leader who faced a merciless and misogynistic media that often portrayed her as a polka dot-obsessed housewife … sadly, I can imagine that Kirner wasn’t the least bit surprised when her mentee Julia Gillard faced even more abhorrent treatment from the still misogynistic media decades later, as our first female Prime Minister.

With that in mind – I gift you ‘One True Thing’ – a young adult novel in which Hayes imagines another female politician running for Premier of Victoria, and the repercussions on her family when “the personal is political” and smartphones can help to capture all manner of scandal.

I actually started reading this book shortly after I binge-watched a brilliant Australian TV show called ‘Party Tricks’ – featuring beloved actress Asher Keddie as Premier who finds herself going head-to-head for re-election against the man she had an affair with years ago. The show also featured a small storyline about the male candidate’s teenage daughter getting caught in the middle when political scandal breaks – and I found myself wishing we could stay with that story for a little longer, so imagine my glee when I picked up Nichole Hayes’ book to discover this was the very basis of her new novel!

Our protagonist is Frankie – a teenager who often feels like ‘window dressing’ to her parent’s career ambitions – her mother the politician, her father the author. And while Frankie may think she’s an old pro at navigating the craziness of her mother’s career, things kick into a whole other gear with her running for Premier – particularly when some photos surface that throw shade on her mother’s campaign, and even her parent’s marriage.

I know it’s only partly true. But truth, I’m quickly learning, is a slippery thing. What’s true one second isn’t even close to true the next. Sometimes it feels like there is no one true thing. 
When a student journalist called Jake takes an interest in Frankie’s band, she sees appeal in him immediately but is wary of anyone who has ambitions of joining the vultures who are currently picking her family apart.

I really did love this novel, and I loved Frankie as a fairly prickly protagonist. Look, I think when you grow up in politics and with two fairly egocentric parents you’re bound to be affected – and I especially loved how Hayes let a little of Frankie working through her issues come out in the music she loves (appropriately, 1990s grunge – “I feel stupid and contagious/Here we are now, entertain us!”). And I loved her complicated attraction to Jake – who I envision is working for The Underage. There’s a bit of a fantasy-noir element to their relationship – politician’s daughter falling for student journo – but I really loved it, particularly for the issues it throws up about the personal as political and journalism ethics in general.

This book is also a big hit for its feminist element. Hayes asks young readers to confront the misogyny in modern-day politics, and she does so in this compulsively readable book that blends teen romance and family drama. There’s a lot here that adults will also enjoy (and, honestly, if you liked ‘Party Tricks’ – read this book!) but Hayes is a great writer for making these big, no-straight-answers ideas so palatable and accessible for younger readers.


FYI - 

if you're in Victoria and live down Frankston way, you'll have a chance to meet Nicole Hayes (!) at Robinsons Bookshop

Details in this post, but definitely keep September 2 & 3 free for some #LoveOzYA celebrations! 

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