Helen McKenna's Reviews > Watch Out for Me

Watch Out for Me by Sylvia Johnson
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's review
Mar 09, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: aww2012-challenge, great-aussie-reads-challenge-2012, australian
Read in March, 2012

It’s a typical Australian summer in 1967. Long hot days, the childhood freedom to roam and explore to your heart’s content (as you could back then), sunburn and bare feet. Four children (three siblings and their cousin) are holidaying at a beach shack in the small town of Bradley’s Head. Amidst their idyllic summer holiday, a baby goes missing and the children tell a lie to keep themselves out of trouble. Of course they have no way of foreseeing what dire consequences their seemingly small fib will have. Fast forward to 2005 and those children are spread around the globe – Hannah is in Sydney, Lizzie in Morocco and Richard in Rome. They haven’t seen their cousin Toby since that summer - then his reappearance in their lives coincides with a series of seemingly unconnected world events that sees each of them struggling with a personal demon of some sort.

The pace of this book is relentless. From the short, choppy chapters to the constant to and fro between past and present, different characters, news articles and commentary on world events you don’t have time to draw a breath. Each time you are fed a tiny piece more of the puzzle and are compelled to keep reading and exploring, hoping to answer at least one of the myriad of questions that keep arising. For me the format was a little bit disjointed at times, as I often felt like I didn't get enough information before moving onwards again.

Of course the seemingly unrelated world events in 2005 are in fact linked to the events of that long ago summer – although this is not revealed until close to the end. This has been done very cleverly and brings to mind the “butterfly effect” theory – that nothing happens in the world without a flow-on effect somewhere and also that secrets can be buried, but never forgotten.

I really loved the way the author captured the era of the 1960s and the ‘typical’ small Australian beach town. From the description of the fibro shack the family holidayed in, to the wooden jetty, the town gossip and the undertones of racism – it is right on the mark. She also nailed the reality of the ‘mob mentality’ when something bad happens and people cluster together and gossip and draw incorrect conclusions and a juggernaut is created that is difficult to stop.

The characters are well drawn (both in childhood and adulthood). There isn’t really a main character, although Toby (the cousin) can be seen as the conduit that both gels and fractures the family. In the 1967 sections, the story is mainly told from his viewpoint, although this changes when it moves to 2005 and each character takes turns in narrating.

Overall Watch Out For Me is a compelling read that hooks you in and continues to drag you into a massive web – where you are not sure which way is up, but you know you have to keep looking.
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Comments (showing 1-3)

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message 3: by Olivia (new)

Olivia Wow, sounds intriguing!

message 2: by Shelleyrae (new) - added it

Shelleyrae at Book'd Out I'm intrigued by this one - its had several great reviews

message 1: by Bree (new)

Bree T I really like the sound of this - onto the TBR list it goes!

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