Gillian is fifteen, crippled by a tragic accident but dreams of swimming across oceans. Jacob is fourteen and yearns for his brother’s life. Frankie is fifteen and in love with the new deckhand on her father’s boat. As the story of these three desires intertwine over the course of one lazy summer in a small coastal town, Cargo is by turns heart-wrenching, beautiful and explosive. In a simple time of truth and change, these are characters who do not know themselves, yet through their innocence we come to understand what it means to be young, and have all the troubles in the world.
by Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton
Gillian, Frankie and Jacob live by the sea, a place that changes over summer when the tourists and the extra jobs roll in, bringing complications to their lives. Over the heat of one early 90s summer, the three find out what is important to them – and what isn’t as important as they thought.
Gillian is in love with popular, arrogant drop-out Alex, but knows what people think of her since the accident that claimed her leg. The only thing she knows for sure is how the water makes her feel; what distance swimming ignites inside her. Frankie is rich and well-known, but is losing her grip on her closest friendships and the relationship with her newly pregnant mother and the father who is too distant for all of them – all that she knows for sure is what she feels for her father’s new deckhand. Jacob watches Gillian and wishes to be like his older brother: strong on a surfboard, confident, adored. Harder to see past is his brother’s arrogance and violence.
Cargo is a story about teenagers, but it’s not for children: it’s a novel about issues that (unfortunately) transcend age and that plague even the most mature of adults. It’s about love and rejection; about moving on and beyond your past without forgetting it. Jessica Au’s writing can describe scenes with a perfectly turned phrase, people with a line of dialogue: it’s both spare and lucid, simple yet with the world and everyone in it fully realised. The teenagers never feel anything but real. A beautifully formed and sometimes devastating read that will drag you back to an era you might not care to remember: high school … and, even worse, life before iPods.
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