Stone Girl (Eleni Hale, Penguin)
Sophie grows up saddled with a missing dad and an unreliable alcoholic mother. At the tender age of 12, she finds her mother dead and blames herself. As there is no one to take care of her, Sophie is taken into the Victorian government’s child welfare system, where she is virtually alone. Constantly moving homes and living with older kids who introduce her to smoking, drinking and stealing, Sophie tries to go against everyone’s expectations, but the system swallows her whole. The realism of Sophie’s decline from dedicated student and carer to truant drug addict in an abusive relationship makes readers question a bureaucratic and broken system that often fails to take care of our most vulnerable. Author Eleni Hale has been through the system, and her experience resonates throughout the pages of this debut. Hale has written a novel that is so much more than just a fantastic book. This is a book that gives a voice to the forgotten ones, the kind of book a child stuck in the system might pick up and feel some hope after reading it. And maybe, just maybe some real change will occur.
L J Lacey is the owner of Three Four Knock on the Door Bookshop