Before the Beginning

Anna Morgan

Before the Beginning
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Before the Beginning

Anna Morgan

Schoolies week: that strange in-between time when teenagers move from school into the adult world. It’s a week when anything is possible, and everything can change.

Grace is questioning everything she thought about herself, and has opted not to join her clique of judgemental friends for schoolies, instead tagging along with her brother Casper and his friends. Casper, an artist, is trying to create the perfect artwork for his uni application folio. Overachieving, anxiety-ridden Noah is reeling from a catastrophe that might have ruined his ATAR result. And Elsie is just trying to figure out how to hold their friendship group together.

On the first night of the trip, they meet Sierra, a mysterious girl with silver-grey hair and a magnetic personality. All of them are drawn to her for different reasons, and she persuades them to abandon the cliched schoolies experience in favour of camping with her on a remote, uninhabited island. On that island, each of them will find answers to their questions. But what does Sierra want from them?

An empathetic and suspenseful coming-of-age story from the author of All That Impossible Space. 

Review

Following the end of their VCE exams, four teenagers embark on Schoolies intent on celebrating the end of high school and the start of their new-found adulthood. There, they find themselves inexplicably drawn towards a mysterious guitarist named Sierra, who persuades them into joining her on a camping trip to Shearwater Island, an uninhabited natural park known to the locals. Their leisurely getaway, however, soon takes a turn as tensions ripple and secrets in the group are slowly uncovered.

At first glance, the protagonists of the book feel in some sense familiar – there’s the artist, the responsible figure, the activist and the overachiever. What the reader is treated to, however, is something more than any conventional trope, with each teen having their own distinct voice, quirks and insecurities that render them unique. It is through these characters that Anna Morgan creates a remarkably authentic tribute to the modern high- school experience. This is exemplified in her thoughtful portrayal of the anxieties that surround exams and the difficulties that every teen inevitably faces in deciding what comes next. Flashbacks throughout the book feel like small nods to fond moments in the school year that will likely resonate with many.

The novel features several sections, each told from a different teen’s perspective, along with excerpts from historical newspaper articles and a dictionary of mythical sea beings that gives the plot a darker edge and pushes it forward. Morgan has ultimately crafted an enjoyable read that is a comforting hand reaching out to anyone who has struggled to find their place in the world. Suitable for readers aged 13+.


Xiao Xiao Kingham works as a bookseller at Readings Kids.

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