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Hilary T. Smith
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I'll Tell You Mine

I'll Tell You Mine - Pip Harry 3.5 starsAs per its glowing blurb, [b:I ll Tell You Mine] contains three of Melina Marchetta’s favourite ingredients: ”boarding school, great characters and a lot of heart.” If that hasn’t sold you on it, Pip Harry’s debut also contains: family secrets, goth rock and sweaty farm boys from Wagga. No, seriously. Enough with the chiselled jaws and broody eyes. What YA needs is more guys in KingGees. As the synopsis states, Kate Elliot is harbouring a secret, one that has resulted in her being packed off to board at her Melbourne high school. The secret is alluded to through flashbacks, effectively raising the stakes as the story approaches the final reveal - yet I can’t help but feel that the real strength of this novel is in it’s characters. That’s not to discredit the catalyst for Kate’s story – it’s a powerful premise and an effective inciting incident. But it’s Harry’s ability to craft a nuanced, complex cast that really carry this story, more so than the plot. Not just in mousy-turned-goth-girl Kate, but in her fellow boarders, Harry adroitly side-steps clichés and gives her characters depth. From popular over-achiever Harriet to the Siobhan-Sullivan-esque, (MM FTW!) incorrigible flirt Maddy, to Kate’s goth-not-emo-thank-you-very-much friends – the characters have dimension and agency beyond Kate’s internal journey. Harry has an accessible writing style and Kate’s voice always feels authentic – angry, vulnerable, reckless. There’s an ease to the dialogue and accuracy in her depiction of teens that I think will resonate with readers – Harry is upfront about drinking, drugs and sex without making this feel like an “issues” book. [b:I ll Tell You Mine] did take a turn I didn’t expect (a turn to Wagga Wagga to be precise that’s pronounced ‘Wogga’ for the non-Australians,) as the focus shifts slightly from Kate’s immediate family problems to her self-image and friendship with Maddy. And polite farm boys.A hopeful novel about identity, friendship and forgiveness, [b:I ll Tell You Mine] is a solid, heartfelt debut that earns a spot alongside Gabrielle Williams, Lili Wilkinson, Fiona Wood… Definitely one to watch. As requested by Trin - the book manicure. I hope Kate would approve…