Where You Left Us
Where You Left Us
Shortlisted for The Readings Young Adult Prize 2023
An evocative YA mash-up that’s like Wuthering Heights meets Sherlock Holmes, with Taylor Swift’s Evermore as the soundtrack. Think Kristen Stewart playing Heathcliff, and Holmes and Watson as teenagers with social anxiety - all set on the beach.
Cinnamon Prince is angry. She’s living at home with her rockstar father after his latest breakdown, and she’s stuck in a town where people have whispered that the Princes aren’t quite right ever since the mysterious disappearance of her Great Aunt Sadie. Not that Cinnamon cares about anyone else’s opinion. Except, she might be really starting to care what her gorgeous co-worker Daisy Leung thinks.
Scarlett Prince is anxious. Most of the time, and also about spending the summer with her sister and barely there dad. She’s holding it together. Just. But when sister’s ex-boyfriend-now-best-friend Will starts helping her search for the truth about Sadie, things get all-the-ways complicated.
Can solving the mystery fix their broken family?
A story about healing, home and how to pick up the pieces when you feel left behind.
This month, Rhiannon Wilde brings us her second book Where You Left Us, a gorgeous, Gothic novel set by the ocean. Wilde is a sparkling new voice in Australian young adult literature. Her debut novel, Henry Hamlet’s Heart, won the Queensland Literary Awards Glendower Award for an Emerging Queensland Writer in 2019.
Where You Left Us follows the Prince sisters, Cinnamon and Scarlet, daughters of Ian Prince, a 1990s rock legend now suffering from longstanding mental illness. Cinnamon is trying desperately to keep her father afloat, while Scarlet is only just managing to keep afloat herself. When Scarlet returns home from boarding school, the tensions between the siblings begin to erupt. And in the midst, a strange family mystery resurfaces: who was Aunt Sadie and why did she disappear? And why does the town want to forget her?
I found this novel deeply touching, not just for its lovely queer narrative, but also the relationship between Cinnamon and Scarlet. Their bond is fraught, and the two siblings must work hard to find common ground. Wilde’s writing style is playful, making use of the physical page in different ways that are exciting to read. The writing itself balances the fast pace of a young adult novel with moments of arresting beauty: ‘outside the window, the sun slips into bruises on the horizon’. Wilde does an excellent job developing a sense of place that sucks you deeper into the narrative. Where You Left Us is a thoughtful coming-of-age reflection on mental illness, queerness and family, set in a Gothic home by the ocean with its own cemetery in the backyard.
Stephanie King is from Readings Emporium
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