Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky is a beautiful young adult novel centred around twelve going on thirteen-year-old Lexie. She talks to her pretend ‘friend’ Miranda when her heroin addicted mum is not there, or is passed out in her room. Lexie wishes she would just act normal, ‘like a mother’. Her Dad left them and then died in a car accident.
She befriends the man perceived as the local weirdo, they call The Creeper. When she finds him on the roof of the commission tower that they both reside in, she manages to talk him away from jumping. His dog, his only companion, has been thrown off there by two bullies who also live in the building.
Lexie enlists her friend Davey to help clean up Mr Romanov’s apartment and then work on the garden he has started on the roof. There they hatch the idea to pursue Lexie’s dream of getting to Surfers Paradise, the place her father and she had dreamed of going.
A road trip in Mr Romanov’s beat-up old Mercedes ensues and they are all have their own agendas – Lexie to visit that special place, Davey to see his father and Mr Romanov to capture his youth and some memories before he is not able to anymore.
With three daughters himself, it is not surprising that Robert Newton can write so well in the head of an adolescent girl.
This perceptive novel shows ‘what it feels like when people make decisions about who you are without ever bothering to find out’, that life is hard and complicated for all people in different ways, they all ’struggle with something or another’. The characters are all shown with compassion and a lack of judgement, making it perfect for teenagers, allowing them to walk a while in the shoes of others. Give this book to young people you know, or read it yourself.