Books about teenagers getting bullied and having a difficult life are usually depressing, melodramatic and really bring you down. Yellow differs in showcasing the beautiful moments in life, even though you may be from a low income family.
This makes me think how misunderstood these teenagers are. Even though Kirra lives in a Housing Commission, comes from a low income family, has an alcoholic mother and suffers from bullying, there are moments of joy in her life, through the friendships she develops with Noah and Willow, the encouragement from the ghost Boogie, and the gentle guidance of her teacher where she learns to work to her true potential.
While Kirra is misunderstood, bullied and has low self esteem, she’s also intelligent, hopeful and interesting. She does make flawed decisions that aren’t always right, but through these experiences, she learns which is the most important thing. She learns to trust in herself and to build a better life for herself.
The magical realism in the story gives it a paranormal undertone, where Boogie talks to Kirra through a beachside telephone. It’s slightly creepy, as he laments about his loneliness and persuades Kirra to find his killer. But Boogie also gives her a direction and a means to change her life, which was the push she needed.
Kirra’s relationship with her parents was heart breaking, but I’m glad they were represented as a big part of her life as opposed to being absent. Her alcoholic mother made me really angry, as she kept on missing out things that were important to Kirra and hit the bottle everyday instead of being a parent. Her father was just as horrible but in a different way, as a surfer on the dole who just wants to have fun with no responsibilities. Both of these representations demonstrate parents who are not coping well with the consequences of their decisions, which is sad but realistic. I raised an eyebrow at the extreme measures that Kirra took to curb her mum’s alcoholism though, which were overly dramatic and unrealistic.
She doesn’t have an easier time at school either, as she’s bullied by the popular mean girl Cassie and the rest of the student cohort. It was interesting seeing everyone else follow in Cassie’s footsteps, simply because of her rung on the school’s social ladder. I’m glad that Kirra did have that one person who does stick up for her, Willow, who is an outcast and has nothing to lose by standing up to Cassie. The girls build a tentative friendship of mutual respect and understanding which was another bright spot in her life.
There’s a touch of romance and I’m glad it didn’t take over the story as an excuse to “save” Kirra from her situation. Noah is a popular guy, but he’s also misunderstood. It shows how little we know about how people really feel outside of their stereotypes, which gave the characters some depth. It was nice to have his kindness in Kirra’s life, giving her positive reaffirmation for her decisions.
I also loved the cosy setting in an Australian beachside town, with surfing, sand dunes and teenagers who save up to wear Roxy and Billabong.
Who knew that there could be a certain elegance in the difficulties of a low income family in a cosy, Australian beachside town? Yellow pulls it off beautifully, giving Kirra a way out of her circumstances. While the story became a bit unrealistic at times, it was an empowering novel about standing up to people, taking risks, and breaking out of your circumstances.
Check out Happy Indulgence books for more reviews at happyindulgencebooks.com! A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Yellow is a young adult novel about Kirra, a fourteen year-old girl who lives in a small town in Australia. She takes care of her barely functioning alcoholic mother. Her dad left and is expecting a baby with his new girlfriend. He seems to care more about surfing than anything else. Even worse, Kirra lives in the Housing Commission section of town – where the poor kids live. She’s in the popular clique at school but is the lowest girl on the totem pole and her role in the group seems to be an object for the other girls’ bullying. They are downright mean, as only fourteen year-old girls can be.
Kirra finally reaches her breaking point, runs out of school and ends up on the beach. The phone in a nearby abandoned phone box starts ringing so she answers it. The ghost of a fourteen year-old boy named Boogie is on the other line. She is freaked out at first but then forms a friendship with him and agrees to find his murderer in exchange for him giving her advice on how to deal with the mean girls.
When listing to this book, at first I wondered why the author included the magical realism of Boogie’s character in the plot. Why wasn’t it just a straightforward book about surviving high school? It turns out that Boogie gives the story some wonderful twists that I won’t give away. And Jacobson’s prose is so beautiful it’s unlike anything I’ve read or listened to in a young adult novel. Finally, I liked that the book’s narrator had an Australian accent. The book is set in Australia and hearing it read with that accent made it that much easier for me to lose myself in the story. This is a book that both teenagers and adults can enjoy.
*** I won an ARC from the publisher via a giveaway on Instagram***
Wow. This book right here blew me away.
What a stunningly powerful and exquisitely crafted novel. Yellow is an impressive and masterful debut, the sort of quietly compelling and beautifully written story that sneaks up on you page by page and takes your breath away. It is, on the surface, a young adult contemporary set in the lower class housing commission suburbs, the public school classrooms and surrounding bushland and beaches of a coastal Australian town. And yet, what Megan Jacobson has done, creating an almost supernatural murder mystery, brings this story together in a way that forms something heartbreakingly amazing and unique, a whole that is a lot stronger than the sum of its parts.
This is a book that tackles some really big concepts – bullying, murder, depression, divorce, addiction, self-image and self-awareness, standing up for yourself and for others, friendship, relationships and loss – and weaves them all together into an incredibly poignant but uplifting story that is ultimately about the redemptive power of kindness, what it means to be haunted by the past and the choices we must make as we grow up and find our feet in the world. For me, at least, the ideas and themes behind this story are what makes it so powerful and memorable.
This book is all heart and soul, undoubtedly a labour of love by the author; heartfelt, gritty, real and honest. There is something whisper soft and tranquil about the writing which enables the author to really pack a powerful punch with the harsher realities of the world. And Jacobson does not once talk down to her audience, she is truthful in her portrayal of harder social issues and yet intertwines it all with a level of poetry to the writing that is just heartbreakingly beautiful and so engaging. I often tag pages with beautiful lines or favourite passages when I read a book I plan to review, but with this one I had to stop because almost every second page there was a line or phrase I wanted to savour. The writing in this book is just stunning, it reminds me of Markus Zusak's When Dogs Cry (one of my absolute favourite YA contemporaries). Jacobson so effortlessly creates this haunting and sad reality and yet makes it beautiful, fills even the simplest moment with something amazing. This book is the embodiment of the sentiment that even though things may be broken they can still shine and that even in the darkest of places there is still something inherently beautiful and hopeful about life.
Yellow so perfectly captures the emotion and atmosphere of growing up in Australia. It brought me right back to my childhood, especially with the way it explored bullying. I think many readers will find something sadly relatable about the way in which victims will try to diminish themselves in order to avoid attention and maintain the status quo within an established school pecking order, as though excelling beyond your allotted place is a crime worthy of punishment by those around you who will quickly bring you down. There is a level of claustrophobia to the world, the characters’ lives confined by the social hierarchies and limited opportunities in front of them in a way that I feel is so relatable to many younger people who cannot yet see the potential before them or in themselves. It is hard to be young, lonely and a little bit lost and I think we can all understand that feeling of just trying to work life out as we go, unable to see more than what is in front of us.
While Yellow is a book heavy on themes, it is at its core a story about people and what it means to grow up and believe in yourself even in a world that will try and bring you down. This book is a good reminder that true friends will build you up, they will see the good in you, rather than try to drag you back down or point out only your flaws and failings. It really illustrates how damaging words can be, as well as how kindness and love can be so powerful and healing. The characterisation is definitely one of the areas where Jacobson really shines. These characters felt real to me; I felt their emotions, their fears, their insecurities and the ways in which certain things can either break you down or help build you up, especially in the oh so important teen years where belief in yourself can be hard to find.
While I imagine some readers will find the pacing a little slow, those who like intelligent, thought-provoking and beautiful writing and a book that delves into harder topics will be richly rewarded.