Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Book Shelf: I Had Such Friends by Meg Gatland-Veness

When Charlie Parker dies, it affects everyone who knew him. Everyone, that is, except for seventeen-year-old Hamish Day, the boy who lives on a cabbage farm and only has one friend. But Hamish soon finds himself pulled into the complicated lives of the people left behind. Among them is Annie Bower, the prettiest girl in school. As he uncovers startling truths about his peers, his perspectives on friendship, love, grief and the tragic power of silence are forever altered.

Meg’s own teaching experience has enabled her to delve deeper into the true nature of a universal high school experience. I Had Such Friends will speak to high school students/teenagers on a personal level, and foster important conversations among Australian youth, school and family culture on issues including abuse, failure and neglect.

With hard-hitting themes including unrequited love, abuse, neglect, sexuality, bullying, prejudice, death and suicide, I Had Such Friends is a poignant journey of self-discovery, grief and the tragic power of silence. A gripping look at adolescent pain with a narrative maturity that accurately reflects its YA milieu, I Had Such Friends resonates with young adult audiences and pushes them to reflect on their own ‘sliding doors’ moment.

More info on Goodreads.....


I Had Such Friends is a powerful and poignant debut from Australia author Meg Gatland-Veness that draws its readers into a beautifully written story about growth, pain and the power of self-discovery.

Set in a small rural Australian town, I Had Such Friends introduces readers to Hamish Day, a seventeen year old high schooler who lives on a cabbage farm with his mum and dad. Quiet and reserved, Hamish has one friend and lives a simple life. Nothing changes, until one day the most popular boy in school is killed in a car accident. Hamish only ever knew Charlie Parker from a distance but his death sparks the beginning of a turn in Hamish’s life. Soon he begins befriending the school rebel Peter Bridges and is drawn to Charlie’s heartbroken girlfriend Annie Bower. As Hamish begins to uncover the surprising truths about his peers, he begins to discover truths about himself and soon his perspective on life and who he is will never be the same.

Having quickly devoured this novel, I have to say I was quite impressed with Meg Gatland-Veness’s debut. There was something so very beautiful about I Had Such Friends and after the tiniest slow start, I found myself very captivated by the story. Meg Gatland Veness explores some very powerful themes through the story including bullying, first love, sexual orientation, suicide, abuse and death, weaving them together to create an emotional and thought provoking story that definitely tugs at the heart strings upon occasion.

Hamish’s voice is very likable. He’s just a normal, awkward teenage boy. He’s not cool. He’d not popular. He’s actually quite sad at times but he’s authentic. Gatland-Veness details Hamish’s tale at that pivotal age when you are just discovering who you are. There are true moments of growth throughout the story, but I also feel that this novel is just the pinnacle of Hamish’s life….and I really like this. I Had Such Friends really felt like it was just a chapter of Hamish’s life; the beginning of a new journey, however heartbreaking and impacting it may have been.

I Had Such Friends is the kind of story that really surprises you. I don’t think I fully anticipated the story Meg Gatland-Veness had in store for us when I first began the novel, but I found I really enjoyed what I discovered. Hamish’s story wasn’t cut and dry and was instead layered and complex. I enjoyed learning about him as he learnt about himself. The discoveries he made were both predictable and unexpected and made for some adorable and quite authentic reading on Gatland-Veness’s part.

Overall, I Had Such Friends was an emotional and powerful read. There’s moments of pain and true friendship written within its pages and I left the story both satisfied yet still nothing but hopeful for Hamish’s future and those around him. Meg Gatland-Veness's first foray into the literacy world is impressive and I'll be keeping an eye out to see what she does next!

Source: Sent for review by publisher (Thank you Anabel!)
Publisher: Pantera Press
Format: Paperback
Australian RRP: $19.99
Release Date: August 1st 2018
Purchase: Bookworld | Booktopia | Amazon
Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book and will be looking to see what Meg Gatland-Veness releases next.

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