This gorgeous little novel caught me totally unaware. I shouldn’t have been surprised – it was written by Cath Crowely, after all, and my love of her lyrical style was firmly sealed with Graffiti Moon – but this book basically crept up on me, tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Excuse me, but I’ll be hijacking your emotions now.”The themes Crowley deals with are not exactly groundbreaking – friendship, self-esteem, grief, first love, acceptance, change – but they are intensely relatable and touching through the dual perspectives of Charlie and Rose. The wanting these two characters had for something different in their lives was palpable in the prose: Rose’s ambition for a future different to her parents’, Charlie’s longing to become visible. Crowley writes the accompanying feelings of uncertainty, hope, awkwardness and frustration with authenticity. Charlie’s struggle for connection in particular was achingly familiar and beautifully articulated. ‘Chasing Charlie Duskin’ also deals honestly with familial relationships, particularly between parents and children. The dynamic between Charlie and her father was complex, and in the case of Dave (Dave! Love him) and Mr Robbie, unsettling and a little heartbreaking. It’s this emotional realism that makes this book crawl under your skin and keeps the characters lingering with you. This is a quietly told coming of age story – even the more dramatic plot points happen without accompanying fanfare or histrionics – that felt fitting to the setting. Crowley captures the sense of tightly knit community in a country town, and the beauty and boredom of the place are nicely juxtaposed. Full of gorgeous phrases (my page flagging of quotes rapidly got out of control), Crowley’s writing is rich and evocative. However, I do feel that there is less restraint used here than in Graffiti Moon, which in my opinion, makes GF the better book. This is a simple, moving story peopled with realistic characters. It’s sad, funny and ultimately optimistic. A wonderful book by an outstanding author.