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Shauna’s Great Expectations (Kathleen Loughnan, A&U)

Seventeen-year-old Shauna is the recipient of an Indigenous scholarship to an elite Sydney girls’ school. The expectations placed on her could be no higher than those she places on herself, so when she unexpectedly falls pregnant she is devastated. As a young Indigenous woman, Shauna is only too aware of the restrictions placed upon her because of her race. Worried that she is confirming every bad stereotype of Indigenous girls—as held by her racist classmates—but unable to terminate the pregnancy, Shauna becomes determined to complete her HSC, continue on to university, and raise a child. Shauna’s Great Expectations is an interesting and complex examination of race and prejudice that could have benefited from even further exploration. Coupled with this is an obvious comment on teenage pregnancy and abortion, one that comes across as moralistic—the author’s stance on the issue is clear and the somewhat heavy-handed way in which it is presented leaves the reader wondering if Shauna’s eventual situation is an ideal rather than a reality. Separately, the themes of race and teen pregnancy could have made for a deeper examination of the teenage experience. Together, the book feels somewhat overcrowded. Recommended for older teenagers who have enjoyed the similar setting of Erin Gough’s Amelia Westlake.

Erin Wamala has worked in publishing and bookselling. She is currently a teacher-librarian.

 

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