Waterhole reviewed by Annie

At sixteen, Sunny’s life does not reflect her name, short for Sunshine, given to her by her hippy mother. But her mother has died in a car accident, leaving her with her step-father. She returns to the family home in Kelly’s Crossing, from boarding school, to an awkward situation between them.

She has started having ‘experiences’ where she feels her mother is present. Then twelve-year-old Dylan goes missing and she seems to be getting messages about his disappearance. Her step-father Keven was one of the last people to see him alive, and he is implicated in the case, creating even greater distance between him and Sunny.

 The small ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town just off the highway’ is captured vividly and the landscape described beautifully with the eerie mystery behind the drownings at the waterhole – ‘there was a silent power coming from the boulders, a sense of ghostliness in the way they lurked like the smooth bones of the earth beneath the brilliant surface’.

Bell’s depiction of the difficulties when parents re-partner, and the way the absent party can be reimagined, are spot on, common issues for teenagers these days. The portrayal of the loss of her mother at this crucial stage in a girl’s life is real and raw.

The characters are so well developed – Sunny with all she is dealing with, her mother – ‘a bit flaky sometimes’, Kevin, a typical country bloke trying to parent resistant Sunny, and Matt the young man Sunny befriends.

This is another great book for young adults to immerse themselves in and leave them questioning the assumptions they often make.

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