Gale’s first YA novel is a blend of the contemporary and historical, entwining the stories of fifteen year old Hannah, her mother Sara, and grandmother Essie. Steal My Sunshine deals with one of the darker aspects of Australia’s history: the forced adoption of children born to unwed or ‘wayward’ girls, often at the coercion of churches, hospitals and adoption agencies. This practice of removing babies against the mothers’ will, or ‘institutionalised baby farming’, went on for around five decades. Apologies to those affected have only been issued since 2010 (commencing with Western Australia) and most recently in 2013 on behalf of the Federal Government. There’s an element of mystery in the unwinding of Hannah, Sara and Essie’s story. The relationships between the three women are fraught; tense with resentment and unfulfilled yearning. Hannah, who’s already trying to navigate her parents’ separation, school, her crush and a complicated relationship with her best friend, begins to uncover Essie’s history, sensing that it holds the key to the family’s conflict. Essie gradually reveals her secret, piece by piece. These sections are related via flashbacks, and what is unearthed in these scenes is truly harrowing. Even with the knowledge that Gale is only providing a glimpse of the horror endured by these girls, it’s enough to make for compelling, albeit grim, reading. Though Essie’s portions of the novel are comparatively brief compared to the contemporary storyline, they pack a punch. Gale’s novel is a heartfelt coming of age story that tackles the themes of redemption and forgiveness, internalised pain and the far-reaching effects of trauma. Particularly noteworthy is her skilful hand with crafting realistic relationships between the characters. There’s a touch of romance in this story – but mostly it’s about family, and learning to heal the wounds of the past.