Books & Literature

Book Review: Outlaw Girls, by Emily Gale & Nova Weetman

TEEN: Outlaw Girls is an exciting, fast-paced time-slip novel, narrated by both Ruby and Kate, about family, friendship, loyalty and betrayal, the complexity of right and wrong, and working out what matters most.

A lovely story that moves the reader through time, learning a little bit of history along the way.

Feature image credit: Text Publishing

Emily Gale and Nova Weetman have joined together again to bring us a new story set in country Victoria, both now and in the past. They also collaborated on the successful Elsewhere Girls which was commended in Book of the Year for Younger Readers, Children’s Book Council Notables List 2022. Elsewhere Girls is about two girls from different times who swap places in a time slip and Outlaw Girls uses the same premise

Ruby lives in Shepparton in country Victoria with her mum. She is always getting into trouble with her dubious friends. She has no desire to change and no dreams for her future.

After getting caught trying to steal a tractor, Ruby is sent to her Uncle Harry’s place for the holidays. He lives on a farm with his wife who is pregnant with their first child. Ruby’s mum is hoping that farm life will help instil some sense of responsibility into her wayward daughter. Ruby is not impressed about spending her summer holidays away from her friends, with very bad Wi-Fi, but the saving grace is being able to ride Harry’s horse Queenie.

Not long after Ruby arrives on the farm, she is out riding and comes across Kate. Kate has been carried through time from 1878. She also happens to be the sister of Ned Kelly. And so begins the adventures of the two girls as they travel back and forth through time, trying to change the course of history.

Outlaw Girls has several underlying themes which deal with things such as honesty, making the right choice (not the easy choice), and choosing friends wisely. Ruby has many flaws and we see her struggle with growing up. There could be much discussion in a classroom setting around these themes.

It is also a great history book as we get an inside look into family life back in 1878 and the life of a bushranger on the run. Both Gale and Weetman did a lot of research on the life of Kelly and his gang, and have included many real events in this work of fiction. It is interesting to look at the life of a bushranger from the point of view of a family who love him and are willing to forgive.

Both Ruby and Kate are the central characters throughout the story. They are about the same age (Ruby has just started high school) and both finding their place. Their characters are well rounded and the imagery makes it easy to imagine life in the high country of Victoria in the 1880s.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the girls, with their name at the beginning so as not to cause confusion for the reader. That way we are able to feel their panic, surprise, and eventually acceptance about moving back and forth and living in a different time.

Young people who love horses will particularly enjoy Outlaw Girls.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Text Publishing
Released: February 2024
RRP: $16.99

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