Review: Between Us by Clare Atkins

Powerful and heartbreaking are the two words that came to mind the moment that I sat down to write this review. From the moment that I heard of this book--about two very different teenagers in Darwin--I knew that I had to read it, and I was not disappointed. I was sad at times, and sadly not surprised, but the story also moved me to the point where I was still thinking about it well after I closed the covers.

Ana, known as KIN016 to the staff at Wickham Point Detention Centre, is both excited and frightened to be starting school in Australia. Ana is an Asylum Seeker who arrived in Australia by boat, along with her mother, her baby brother and her mother's boyfriend. Since then, life in detention has been tough. They've been moved around a lot, and her mother's boyfriend is stuck in the detention centre in Nauru, while Ana's pregnant mother is expecting their baby any day. Meanwhile, Kenny, a guard at the centre who was born in Vietnam tells Ana that his son Jono will look out for her. Kenny soon regrets his decision when Jono and Ana become closer than what anyone would have expected them to...

This was an interesting take on some of the real issues that surround immigration detention in Australia. Through Jono, we see the freedoms that kids in Australia have and take for granted. Through Kenny we see the conflict between humanity and bureaucracy, as well as the suspicion of the people who are in detention--are they genuine refugees or not? Kenny's own story of arriving in Australia is very different--his sister arrived here in an era when refugees were welcomed, and he came out a few years later, having been sponsored by his sister. It's partly his own experiences that help to ignite his suspicions, along with his fraught relationship with Jono. Kenny's suspicions eventually have devastating consequences.

As for Jono himself, he's a broken kid whose life is turned around for the better through his friendship with Ana? But is the friendship equal? Does Ana's life improve because of her friendship with Ana. Read her final chapters, and compare them with Jono's chapters at the start of the novel and maybe you'll get an idea.

Although heartbreaking, this was an enjoyable and realistic read about the very human side to what is quite a difficult issue in Australia. On a side note, it was also pleasing to read a novel set in Darwin, as these can be few and far between. 

Highly recommended.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2018


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