How To Repaint a Life, by Stephen Herrick
I was fully immersed in this young adult novel from the very beginning. It's a story of friendship, family, kindness, and courage.
Isaac is on the run from something broken, and has no intention of looking back. He finds himself stepping off a bus into a small town, and only plans to stay for a short time as he finds his feet, but somehow becomes immersed in the kindness and warmth he encounters there. It's when he is offered a job at a café, serving coffee to the locals, that he meets Sophie.
Sophie is immersed in her art and just wants to keep her head down at school and avoid the mean kids. But when her world collides with Isaac's, she comes to understand that it might be possible to hope for more: to step up and take control of her future.
I adored both Sophie and Isaac, the two teen protagonists. Despite the background of violence and abandonment that Isaac has emerged from, he is still open to trusting others; there's a gentle clumsiness about him that is immediately endearing. And Sophie is smart, artistic and funny - daring to be brave and stand up for what she believes in. I love Isaac and Sophie together and they might just be one of my new favourite couples in young adult fiction right now! The uncomplicated sweetness in the way they are drawn together makes for a completely enjoyable read.
I also enjoyed the portrayal of Sophie's relationship with her parents, which is also refreshingly uncomplicated. Their conversations are filled with a wry humour and we also get an insight into Sophie's dad Gerry's interior thoughts which adds another layer of depth to the narrative.
There is a gritty realism to this book in the themes it deals with - including homelessness, domestic violence and toxic masculinity, but these themes are handled with an assured touch.
The writing is raw, authentic and understated yet also moving and heartfelt - highly recommended.
Published by UQP