Henry Hamlet's Heart, by Rhiannon Wilde
This young adult novel by debut author Rhiannon Wilde broke my heart in the best possible way. I loved it from the very first page - where we meet the narrator, Henry - who is about to start back at school for term three of Year 12. Henry is preoccupied with studying for his exams, trying to work out what he wants to do with the rest of his life, and fulfilling his final obligations as school captain.
Luckily Henry has a solid group of friends he can count on (The Boiyss); a best friend in the enigmatic and charming Len; and a supportive family. The plan is to keep his head down and avoid too much partying, so that he can sail relatively smoothly through his last few terms of school.
However, what Henry doesn't count on is falling suddenly and unexpectedly in love for the first time - with the very last person he ever imagined. It is at once both exhilarating and terrifying. He's never felt this way about anybody before - but allowing himself to give in to his feelings might mean losing a friendship that means the world to him.
Will Henry find the courage to embrace his true self and take a leap of faith? Or will doing so mean losing everything that matters to him?
Henry is a fabulous narrator - his voice alternating between dry wit and endearing awkwardness. It is impossible not to feel completely invested in Henry as he shares his inner-most thoughts and fears.
Henry's friends and family are also well drawn and immensely likeable characters, each with their own unique personalities and complex backgrounds (I was particularly fond of Henry's Gran who is planning a wedding to her girlfriend and says exactly what she thinks).
The portrayal of the final year of school - that feeling of impending freedom running alongside the fear of letting go of all that is familiar - rings with authenticity. There is no doubt many young adult readers will relate to this story of friendship, family, and having the courage to be true to yourself.
But, ultimately, it is the moments of love and friendship in this story that shine the brightest - depicted with such tenderness it makes your heart ache.
This story sparkles with humour and warmth, and is highly recommended.
Thank you to UQP for sending me a copy of this fabulous book for possible review.
Published by UQP