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384 pages, Paperback
First published May 21, 2013
“Greatest pain in the world: the moment after waking. Remembering again as consciousness slaps my face in the morning’s first sigh. Nips fresh the not-healed wound. Clubs its groundhog self into my brain, a new sharp bite, a new blunt instrument for every single day of the week. Grief has so many odd-value added features. You’d laugh.”Using the setting of an outdoor education program, Wood places her characters into a heightened environment – here, life is distilled, concentrated down to its fundamental elements. In one sense, it’s survival in the physical world, stripped of outside influences and support networks. In another, it creates an incubator that intensifies and tests allegiances. This concept of habitat and isolation from external factors serves to pressurise relationships, forcing them to either evolve or disintegrate.
“Sometimes I think I see you, Sibylla, but then you get all blurry about what people think about you… The only person you should be is yourself. You can’t control perception. All you can control is how you treat someone else.”Into this amplified reality, Wood mixes envy and manipulation, referencing the novel’s Othello motif in the dynamic of Sibylla and Holly’s friendship. The longevity of the relationship and the tenuous balance of power that both girls have grown accustomed to is challenged when the limelight suddenly falls on Sibylla. With this new attention, the roles they occupy within the school’s social order are shifted, presenting opportunity, confusion, and a catalyst for the toxicity of their friendship to emerge. It’s an insightful portrayal of the insidious creep of jealousy and cruelty, the way lines between friend and enemy can be obscured by years of shared history, and the complex nature of female friendships.
As though I haven't heard every feminist rant under the sun and am not a proud feminist ranter myself, when warranted, and when I can be bothered.I loved that. How perfectly apathetically adolescent. And yet there's nothing in the story which follows that supports Sib's statement there, and in fact I could build the argument that Sib's behavior contradicts it. And while it's really great to have a contradictory protagonist, there needs to be more self-awareness in the writing that said character is actually contradictory (instead of just passive) in order to pull that off.