Our teenage years are an age of discovery, about ourselves, the world we live in, and our relationship to the people and places around us. Christopher Currie’s novel captures the wonder and angst of it all beautifully in the guise of sixteen year old Clancy, a misfit in the suffocating dead-end town of Barwen.
When her father is blamed for an accident that results in the death of two popular teenagers, her dysfunctional, outcast family is ostracised even further, leaving Clancy feeling more isolated and confused as she navigates her way through life.
Currie unveils Clancy’s embattled landscape with a cast of endearing characters and, by sharing the heroine’s inner thoughts, we experience all that uncertainty, determination and emotion that has teen-angst film makers rubbing their hands with glee. That’s not to say Currie lets his characters wallow in self-pity. They are each battlers, dealing the best they can with their situation. The nuanced personalities also bring hope and comedy and joy into the frame.
Although billed as a novel for young adults, Clancy of the Undertow is a delightful read for any age. The dialogue is sharp and fresh, with the central players all recognisable personalities, perhaps even displaying traits we can recognise in ourselves or others, from her brother’s obsession with the bizarre to her mother’s Hallmark card style of parenting.
The mystery of what happened on the night of the accident carries through the book, adding another layer of tension, right alongside the unknown path Clancy will take in her quest for love, happiness and a sense of belonging.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 8
Publisher: Text Publishing
Release Date: November 2015