Thursday, August 2, 2018

ARC Review: I Had Such Friends by Meg Gatland-Veness

I Had Such Friends by Meg Gatland-Veness
Published: August 1, 2018
Publisher: Pantera Press
Pages: 288 (ebook) 
Series: Shades of Magic #1  
Source: NetGalley eARC 
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Charlie Parker dies, it effects everyone who knew him. Everyone, that is, expect 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.

The book includes warnings about: child abuse, neglect, sexual assault, bullying, prejudice, death, and suicide. This book covered some heavy topics, and did so in a powerful and resonating way. I love that the back matter of the book included awareness messaging and information about suicide prevention organizations in Australia (where the book is published).

Our characters are seniors in high school who have been through a lot, and everyone is not as they seem (I know that’s a horror cliché but I really just mean that the one-dimensional stereotypes people present hide the complicated, multifaceted person they really are, and this book wandered that line in a creative way). The novel opens with the car crash and death of Charlie Parker, the school's beloved athlete and the grief-stricken students left behind. Navigating grief brings two students into the life of Hamish, our main character who is socially and physically distant from the rest of the school (the lone nerd who also lives on the outskirts of town on his family's cabbage farm). This novel dealt with identity both in an academic setting, as well as personal/sexual identity which I haven't seen very much of in other novels. Our main character Hamish doesn't really know who he is outside of farming with his family, and studying, until two other students take an interest in him. Why they were both independently drawn to Hamish and how his relationships with them develop created a powerful narrative. Hamish discovers himself through his interactions with Martin, Peter, and Annie. 

As he learns more about his peers, their grief over Charlie's death, and his balance of time between everyone asking for his attention, Hamish learns more about himself as well- life altering realizations. Some friendships fall apart and some don’t- that’s just how life is. The people who really matter should love and understand you, and not everyone in your life deserves to stay in your life. Representing both positive and negative reactions to the events that take place in this novel creates a realistic reading experience and almost anyone is sure to be able to relate to aspects of this book. Seeing LGBT+ representation in a religious suburban/rural town is something that a lot of kids can identify with. Navigating loss, dating, friends, and family and the various reactions to the actions of these compelling characters was both heart-breaking and heart-warming to read.

I’d definitely recommend this book!

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