Are You There, Buddha?

Pip Harry

Are You There, Buddha?
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Are You There, Buddha?

Pip Harry

Bridget ‘Bee’ Ballentine is 12 and starting her first year of high school in the beach suburb Crescent Bay.

Still reeling from the departure of her mother for an ashram in India, Bee talks to Buddha and begs for her first period not to arrive. She’s not ready to become a woman yet, whatever that means.

Although Bee’s yet to find her tribe at school, her best friend forever is surfer Leon McKay, also known as the hottest boy in Year Eight. As long as Leon has her back, Bee can survive the mean girls, her meddling step-mum, Kath, and her swimming nemesis, The Piranha.

Over one blistering summer, set against the backdrop of bushfires, smoke haze and water restrictions, Bee will grow up, show up, and make a name for herself.

From the author of The Little Wave, winner of the 2020 Children’s Book Council of Australia Award for Older Readers.

Review

The path from childhood to young adulthood is neither easy nor straightforward, even for those with supportive family and friends. But for tenacious, thoughtful Bee (who’s mindful of looming environmental challenges facing the world) there are significant personal struggles as well: imminent puberty and the dreaded first period, adjustment to a large secondary school and lack of friendship in her year level.

She acutely misses her mum (currently seeking answers at an ashram in India), but Bee faces her own trials head on, diving into the deep end of life’s challenges. She finds self-assurance in competitive swimming, protection from the ‘mean girls’ from her friend ‘from forever’ Leon, and even a kind of comfort from her conversations with The Buddha.

CBCA award-winning author Pip Harry is a masterful storyteller. Through her skilful use of the verse novel format, and her economy of language with simple yet evocative metaphors, Harry draws the reader in with realistic characters and situations. I loved Bee’s resilience in her search for friendship and identity and her transition to young adulthood; her story is inspiring, honest and wonderfully funny. Readers ages 11 and up will be captivated; funny and relatable, Bee’s a protagonist they’ll want to hang out with.


Athina Clarke is the children’s book buyer at Readings Malvern.

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