What’s it about?
Seventeen year old Friday Brown feels lost after the death of her mother (a single mum) and runs away from her grandfather's house. She then seeks family in a group of street kids. In the city, they beg, work and steal for survival, under the protection of their awe-inspiring (and sometimes frightening) leader, Arden. Friday remains on the fringes of the group, unsure if she belongs, until Arden decides to take them all away from the city to start a new life in an abandoned outback town. There, the group faces life-threatening challenges both externally and from within, and Friday needs to face her biggest fear in order to save them.
Who’s it for?
This is a YA work at the upper end of the age range. It is a sort of cross between coming-of-age and thriller or drama.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, very much so. It wasn’t perfect (what book is?) and most of Friday’s time in the city seemed quite slow-paced to me. But the second half more than made up for it. Friday’s story lingers in my mind, even though it’s been a few weeks (and 4 other novels) since I read it. This book had a strong emotional impact, but in a much more subtle, psychological way than “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry”. Characterisation was strong and the water motif worked beautifully.
Would I teach it?
If I had the right class. It could appeal to any kids from year 9 up, but there’s some sensitive material that needs to be handled with maturity (spoilers ahead) – most of the characters came from abusive homes, there’s a gay teen who is bashed by homophobic strangers, a girl who resorts to prostitution to make money, and a murder that, while not violent or graphic, is deeply unsettling. It could be triggering for some students and if you have conservative parents to consider, it’s not a great choice (there’s also sex and swearing). That said, it's a rich novel and there's plenty to talk about in a classroom. I would love to share it with students. Text publishing provides teaching notes here.
The forums on Scribophile have been chatting about diversity lately and things like the Bechdel test. For what it’s worth, Friday Brown passes with flying colours and includes a very diverse cast of characters in terms of gender, race and sexuality. I can’t put a pin on my map of Australia because the city is unnamed and the abandoned outback town has a made-up name. It is, however, distinctly Australian in its settings.