The Build-up Season (Megan Jacobson, Penguin)
Megan Jacobson’s The Build-up Season is a confronting but compelling exploration of domestic violence and the legacies of abuse, set against the gathering storm clouds in the ‘build-up’ to Darwin’s wet season. The story follows rebel teen Iliad during her final year in high school, charting a path through a new relationship that turns violent, and the breaking and rebuilding of family ties. It ends with an overall feeling of empowerment in the face of great challenges. The Build-up Season is a useful starting point for conversations about family violence and respectful teen relationships, but do note that Jacobson doesn’t shy away from the graphic realities of physical violence. Though not central to the plot, sex is dealt with frankly. Jacobson deconstructs the notion of virginity: it is explained both as something of personal significance on the pathway to adulthood and also something that you can’t be seen as lesser for having ‘lost’. Iliad has a very poor record at school in all subjects except Art, falling behind because of anxiety and the upheaval of moving frequently. This, coupled with the casual language and easy-to-read style, may appeal to more reluctant readers. It’s perfect for fans of Looking for Alabrandi, and suitable for mature readers aged 15 and up.
Tamsien West aka Babbling Books is an Instagram influencer and book blogger