Lili Wilkinson has written many books for young adults but this is the first I have read.
Ruby is approaching eighteen, and still at school. When her younger brother is killed tragically she feels responsible. Her parents are not able to support her, dealing with their own grief and guilt, and she is vulnerable to outside forces. She doesn’t want ‘sympathetic frowns’ or ‘understanding hugs’. Her best friend Minah, who delights in ‘making art that disgusted people’, is the only one who understands. The different reactions each member of the family have are authentic and realistic.
When she meets Fox she is immediately drawn to him. He looks angelic, ‘wild and unknowable’, making her feel, something she hasn’t done for six months. He sees through her grief, she feels he really sees her for who she is. ‘You can let it keep pulling you down into the darkness. Or you can fly’ he tells her and gives her a bottle of water.
She is intrigued by him and what he is offering. The next day she goes back to where she saw him and he is there again. They go to a café and she finds out more about him, and shares some of her own life with him. He has had very little exposure to the outside world, but is happy, content. He introduces her to the Red House where he lives, and his ‘family’. She is taken in by their warmth, openness and simplistic way of life.
She feels she doesn’t have anything to go home to or for, and so she keeps visiting the Red House, and so begins the indoctrination. More than anything she has fallen for Fox. She does have some doubts about the things they say and the way they behave, and so does her friend Minah, and her other friends. She feels torn, but ultimately that she doesn’t belong with her friends anymore.
The pull of Fox and the Boundless Sublime is too great, so when he moves to the Institute – the next level of the Boundless Sublime, she follows him. Zosimon, who runs the Institute, tells her she is special, perfect, can be extraordinary when they meet, and she wants to believe him. And so she sets out to prove him right, doing everything according to their ways.
It was believable, little things along the way that had me thinking they could be onto something, so it was easy to see how a young susceptible person could be drawn in to an organisation like this. Wilkinson writes in a way that is meaningful and accessible to young adults, but not in a preaching, patronising way. I have added her to my list of great quality Australian young adult writers.