Pip Harry, Because of You, University of Queensland Press, 31 July 2017, 264pp., $19.95 (pbk), ISBN: 9780702259777
Because of You is a beautiful and moving story about the difference we can make in a person’s life.
Tiny and Nola live in different worlds within the inner-city suburb of Darlinghurst. Nola is in her final year of high school and has the HSC fast approaching. While her best friends are focused on perfecting every detail of the upcoming Year Twelve Formal, Nola finds herself adrift. Her grades are below average, her relationship with her boyfriend has just imploded, and to top it off, her parents have discovered a secret Nola has been hiding for way too long. Things couldn’t be worse.
Tiny is hungry. She doesn’t have the luxury of regular meals or a bed to sleep in. At just 18 years old, Tiny holds enough guilt and sorrow in her heart to keep her as a nobody – a nothing person on the streets.
Nola has to complete community serve as a school requirement. She is frightened and a little repulsed at being sent to help run a writing group for the homeless. It’s at this temporary shelter, Hope Lane, where both girls’ worlds intersect and their lives are irrevocably altered.
Because of You draws the reader in from page one with characters whose lives are real and honest. The residents at Hope Lane are shunned by society, as people who are homeless often are. Harry’s words allow us to see these residents for who they are – people. People with stories of their own. Tiny, Nola and the idiosyncratic crew from Hope Lane are all carefully crafted. Though they are dealing with a myriad of issues, they are all characters of substance.
Told through alternating viewpoints, Tiny and Nola take us on a journey of personal growth and realisation. Their story is a powerful depiction of the gulf between the worlds of the haves and the have-nots. While it is confronting, there is no gratuitous violence or sex in this book, just a powerful awareness of how our circumstances dictate our perspectives and how our perspectives can impact our circumstances.
It deals with themes of friendship, family, homelessness, addiction, mental health and grief. Though this book did make me cry – a lot – it is not a depressing or gut-wrenching tale. Instead, Because of You is a perfect example of everything good about YA, especially Australian YA. It deals with very real and bleak topics in a way that is filled with love and life and most importantly, hope.
Because of You is an inspiring and eye-opening tale that shines a light on areas society prefers to keep in the dark. I highly recommend this book for readers aged 13 and over.
Reviewed by Fiona Miller-Stevens