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Book DetailsISBN: 9781788164184
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Book Review: Who We Were by B.M. Carroll - Reviewed by CloggieA (25 Apr 2020)
“Annabel Moore: pretty, popular, poisonous. Grace McCrae: couldn’t go to the toilet without Annabel. Zach Latham: thought he was so fucking funny, the idiot. Melissa Andrews: stuck-up bitch. Luke Willis: gay as Christmas. Katy Buckley: always trying to be everyone’s friend. Jarrod Harris: Annabel’s on-and-off boyfriend till he got her up the duff and became full-time ‘on’. Jarrod is the one he despises the most.”
Who We Were is the second novel by Australian author B.M. Carroll (who also writes as Ber Carroll). For the twenty-year reunion of class of 2000 at Macquarie High School, Katy Buckley, now a science teacher, thinks it would be a great idea to update the yearbook entries to reflect their present-day lives. But someone has taken this idea to a level with which most of the school’s ex-students would not be comfortable: official-looking emails mimicking the yearbook entries are dropping into inboxes, and they reveal private lives most have not, nor would prefer to, share.
By the time several people have received these disturbing, perhaps even slightly threatening, messages, brains are racked to deduce who the sender might be, trust is strained and suspicions emerge. Katy has second thoughts, wonders if she should cancel the whole thing, but is encouraged by the others to persevere.
Then a shocking assault has them wondering if it is related to the messages. Invasions of privacy induce a bit of paranoia, and several recipients look back on their treatment of a certain student, most with guilt and remorse, and realise that resentment of their teenaged behaviour could furnish a motive.
The story’s narrative is from seven perspectives that make it clear that several of the characters are in very different places from what was expected when they left Macquarie High. Carroll’s characters are easily relatable, and their dialogue familiar, the sort we all encounter in the café, bar or supermarket. Her depictions of teenaged cruelty, insecurity, drug use, anxiety and rebelliousness are convincing. The story also features homelessness, bullying, cliques, and step-children.
The story is set in 2020, but it’s not the written-by-Stephen-King 2020 we currently inhabit, it’s the 2020 we might have had if COVID-19 had not reared its ugly head. The mystery aspect (which definitely has a Big Little Lies/Liane Moriarty feel) is skilfully done, and even the most astute reader will be kept guessing until the final chapters. This is a brilliant novel, a moving and thought-provoking read. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Serpent's Tail/Profile Books
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