Emily Gale’s novel Steal my Sunshine is a coming of age tale set in St Kilda, aimed at young adult readers.
Hannah’s life starts to fragment during a Melbourne heatwave. Her parents separate, and Hannah feels the only strong people to whom she can turn are her grandmother Essie and her best friend Chloe. However as she soon discovers, these stalwarts have issues and secrets of their own.
Hannah’s teenage social awkwardness feels so realistic, and I so related to Hannah’s experiences with her friends, especially her devotion to Chloe. Her blossoming relationship with Chloe’s older brother Evan is told with excruciatingly honesty. The family dynamics which were wrought by the separation are explored, Hannah’s brother siding with her mother, and Hannah siding with her father.
One of the more fascinating aspects of this book is the revelations from Essie. As a single and pregnant young woman, Essie’s journey to one of the infamous Magdalene laundries attached to convents is told in detail. Reading this in conjunction with Maureen McCarthy’s The Convent, you get yet another perspective of the life behind the walls of a convent were less of a sanctuary and more of a prison.
A beautifully written tale of teenage angst, Steal my Sunshine is definitely worth a read.