I read a really cool book yesterday, Girl Next Door by Alyssa Brugman. I needed a break from Second Glance so I started reading. I had only planned on reading a few chapters, five at the most, but it was so good I didn’t put it down until I finished it. It follows the story of fifteen year old Jenna-Belle (who gets called JB, how cool!?!) who up until the start of the story had lived a life of luxury. She lived in a massive house, went to the best private school in Sydney and when she went shopping, she could buy whatever she wanted. As the story starts though, her dad has ‘gone to the country’ and her mum is going broke. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but by the end of the book, they have lost their car, their house, can’t afford school tuition and at one point are staying in a lice-infested pub in Paramatta for $38 a night. It’s an interesting look at how people become homeless, and it shows that just because someone might be homeless, it doesn’t mean they previously didn’t have an amazing life. To become homeless you only have to make one or two mistakes, and we shouldn’t automatically shun that form of society. Sometimes people become homeless because they’re escaping violence, or because of something another family member did. We need to remember that yes, quite a few are violent, alcoholic, old men, but a lot aren’t. When it comes to homelessness, we need to respect them and not stereotype. This reminds me of the song ‘Everyone’s a hero’ from Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. One of the best quotes from that song is ‘So you wonder what your part is, coz you’re homeless and depressed, but home is where the heart is, so your real homes in your chest’. In a hilarious way, it’s saying yes, you may be on the streets but if you surround yourself with people you love anywhere can feel like home.
That’s a big point in the book too. In the second last chapter, they literally have nowhere to stay so they find a cafe that’s open all night and spend their remaining $36 on cups of tea so they don’t get kicked out. It was humilating and depressing, but they were together and that’s all that truly mattered.
My favourite part of the book comes in the form of a quote on page 159. They’re heading to a caravan park in the Western suburbs of Sydney. If you’re not from Sydney, the Western suburbs are quite scary. Lots of lovely people live there, but the suburbs that make it up are filled with the most bogans/drug addicts/violence in all of Sydney. Jenna-Belle is getting freaked out as they head further west, and gives this insight into Sydney:
We’re Heading West. It’s common knowledge in my part of the world that the more east and north you live, the better a person you are. That is, until you get to Pittwater. Anywhere north of that and you’re a bogan again.
I found that quote absolutely hilarious. When we were in Sydney, we met up with some friends that live in Lane Cove. We got talking about this very subject, and what was said could pretty much be summed up in that quote. Loves it. I also learnt about ‘The Shire’ that night, but that will be featured in a post of it’s own.
The book is amazing. The blurb calls it ‘A novel about losing your home and finding your family’ and that sums it up perfectly. If you see it, get it and read it. It’s a refreshing look at modern teenage life (it was only published this year and includes many modern pop culture references) and touches tender topics (alliteration not intended) without getting weird. Alyssa Brugman, as the voice of Jenna-Belle, deserves to be praised for this amazing novel. 10/10.
frangipani princess xoxo