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Beautiful Mess (Claire Christian, Text)

Claire Christian’s 2016 Text Prize-winning book is a beautifully written YA novel that confidently navigates the murky waters of grief and male-female friendship. Chapters are voiced in turn by Ava, who is angry and confused since her best friend Kelly committed suicide; and Gideon, who is anxious and attempting to stay off his phone, internet and social media as he recovers from years of horrific bullying and self-harm. When these two wounded characters meet while working at the local kebab shop, they slowly learn to trust again and to help each other heal. They also discover the joys of writing letters and sharing poetry. The teenage voices of Ava and Gideon are authentic and engaging, while the dual perspective gives the reader the opportunity to get inside one character’s head and then see them from the other character’s often very different point of view. There are no easy answers in this book; its scenes explore debilitating anger and frustration, first sexual experiences and the importance of therapy in recovery. But there is a deftness of touch in the writing and some genuinely funny moments. This is a strong, character-driven story from a talented playwright and novelist, which tackles some hefty issues with lightness and humour. It is an impressive debut.

Angela Crocombe is the manager of Readings Kids


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