Because of You

Pip Harry

Because of You
University of Queensland Press
31 July 2017

Because of You

Pip Harry

Everyone has a story.

Tiny is an eighteen-year-old girl living on the streets in Sydney, running from her small-town past. At a temporary homeless shelter she meets Nola, a high school student on volunteer placement. Both girls share their love of words through the Hope Lane writing group. Can they share their secrets, too?

Told through the eyes of both Tiny and Nola as they negotiate their way through homelessness, shifting friendships, betrayals, addiction and a little bit of romance, Because of You explores the vastly different coming-of-age stories of two girls who are learning to find their individual strengths.


One poor choice, feeling like you have no choices, shattered dreams, feeling shut out and hemmed in and then running away even when you want to go back: homelessness is the result of so many impossible realities. All of these feelings have made Tiny run away to the city; she feels worthless and that she has failed the most important people in her life. Living on the streets for a year, she has finally been offered temporary respite at a homeless shelter. Three months is not long to turn your life around when you have nothing and feel alienated.

At the same time, Nola, a girl with a lot of choices (though it doesn’t feel like it) resents that she has to do community service as part of her final year at high school. Her aptitude for English sees her volunteer at Hope Lane homeless shelter, with their creative writing program. Tiny’s and Nola’s lives intersect – and while Tiny just wants a feed and Nola wants to get her commitment over as quickly as possible, what starts impossibly begins to flower. Because of You doesn’t shy away from the gritty, cruel reality of homelessness, but it doesn’t belabour it, nor does it take the moral high ground. There are no scapegoats, just people trying to make their way in life, for better or worse.

What shines in this sympathetic novel is the dedication of the volunteers, the champions of the underdog – and the difference they can make. Nola, who has so much privilege, feels hemmed in and estranged, defined and embarrassed by her gay parents. She is taken out of her comfort zone by her involvement with Hope Street and rediscovers her compassion. Tiny is given a chance and meets people who don’t question who she is, but offer help and the prospect to get back on her feet.

Because of You is confronting and sad, but has so much heart and hope that as you wipe away the tears, you smile. I hope this book reaches a deservedly wide audience. It would make a wonderful YA book club choice. Highly recommended for 13+.

Alexa Dretzke

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