Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review: Yellow by Megan Jacobson

Title: Yellow
Author: Megan Jacobson
Publisher: Penguin Teen Australia
Publication Date: 1 February 2016
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

I received this ARC at the Penguin Teen Australia Live event in Brisbane.

Yellow is a YA murder mystery with a slight supernatural edge, but at heart it's about the redemptive power of kindness. Publishing in February 2016, it’s a beautifully written coming-of-age story about family, first love, finding your place and uncovering the secrets of the past.

If fourteen-year-old Kirra is having a mid-life crisis now, then it doesn't bode well for her life expectancy. Her so-called friends bully her, whatever semblance of a mother she had has been drowned at the bottom of a gin bottle ever since her dad left them for another woman, and now a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth. Kirra and the ghost make a pact. She'll prove who murdered him almost twenty years ago if he does three things for her. He makes her popular, he gets her parents back together, and he doesn't haunt her. Things aren't so simple however, and Kirra realises that people can be haunted in more ways than one.
(summary from Goodreads)

A gripping Australian YA contemporary with a supernatural twist.

Yellow is not at all what I was expecting because it's a little unlike anything I've read before. There's a rawness to Jacobson's narrative that is surprising. For me, it was at once kind of odd and brilliant. I was a little put off at how Yellow started. The mean girl routine and "from the wrong side of the tracks" spiel felt cliche and insincere. That wasn't quite what I felt like reading, but soon enough Yellow hit its stride and I didn't want to put it down. It starts with Mitzy and Boogie, which is shocking and provides the story a darker, more intense tone. From then on, Kirra's emotional journey and the mystery of Boogie are all encompassing and hard-hitting. The only major downside is that after a certain incident I started getting an inkling of Boogie's true intentions and from then on it was easy to piece together the clues. It still doesn't diminish the worry about what was going to happen though. Kirra's feelings make Yellow. Jacobson describes them with such gut-wrenching detail and imagery, it's hard not to feel them right along with Kirra. Despite the time period and Australian culture, Yellow delves into universal themes of bullying, alcoholism, high school, small towns, friendship - there's something every reader can relate to. Yellow is very, very Australian. It's a great thing, as there's no denying we need more awesome Aussie YA, but I can't help but feel it needs the warning. The slang, the culture, it can be jarring - and that's coming from an Aussie. Though I admit to being quite the un-Australian Aussie. Jacobson's reference to Ned Kelly and Waltzing Matilda really won me over - just, a huge yes to that. She took the thoughts right out of my own head! 

Kirra's story of desperately wanting something different but nothing to change, of wanting to fit in, is one we all know well. Many times reading Yellow I'd think of what I was like at her age. It was great experiencing the frustration and joy of Kirra's growth, of her realising that her happiness and best relationships were right there all along. I like Noah for the fact that he always saw Kirra. Kirra's relationship with her mother defines Yellow. The capacity to accept, to show kindness, to forgive, is a beautiful and touching message. Boogie's part was a terrible and impacting contrast. I liked the parallel's Jacobson portrayed, the message she illustrated through these. It's heartbreaking how the whole world can seem over at such a young age. Then there's Willow; witty, strong, full of enough rage to fight, always, and yet full of heart and goodness too. I loved Willow. She just kept me grinning and cheering. It's awesome how having just that one person can be everything, and that resonates throughout Yellow.

Megan Jacobson's debut is an emotional coming of age story with a sharp edge.



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