Books & Literature

Book Review: Sadie Starr’s Guide to Starting Over, by Miranda Luby

YOUNG ADULT: Sadie Starr’s Guide to Starting Over is an engaging, funny – serious look at the downsides of aiming too high, the dangers of black and white thinking —and the journey to realising imperfections are part of being human.

A story that will resonate with teenagers who feel like they don’t fit in or are struggling with issues they can’t talk about.

CW: Mention of bullying and eating disorders.

Sadie Starr’s Guide to Starting Over is the first novel written by Miranda Luby, an author, freelance journalist and copywriter who lives in Victoria. It is about 17-year-old Sadie, whose family moves from Sydney to Melbourne. She has to leave behind her long-time best friend Daniel and her older sister Rachel who is staying in Sydney to study at university. She will now have to go to a new school and try to make new friends.

Sadie worries about everything and continually second-guesses all her decisions. Her parents seem to be fighting more than usual. Her mum wants her to be glamorous and thin and her dad wants her to be academic. She feels pressured by them both to excel. The boy who lives two doors down from their new house seems weird and is apparently a stalker. At school, there is Alexa and her posse of girls who all wear pink badges as a sign of their support for women. And there is Sam, the good-looking sporting hero whom everyone wants to spend time with.

But Sadie has to make choices. Friendship choices, food choices and relationship choices. This is not easy when your brain continually tells you how much you are failing.

Often, books where the subject obsesses over things can become bogged down with the angst, but Sadie Starr’s Guide to Starting Over feels fresh and new. Even though Sadie continually goes over every detail of her life, it never becomes boring. The reader is able to feel her pain. It is very easy to read and refreshingly engaging.

Sadie is struggling with her new life, and the reader is carried along with her as she struggles with her illness, tries to make sense of everything, and tries to fit in. Each character in the book has flaws—normal flaws that many teenagers or parents have but may not recognise in themselves. They all feel very believable.

Sadie Starr’s Guide to Starting Over covers many themes which will be familiar to teenagers. Things like, friendships, bullying, worrying about your weight, fitting in, what you are wearing, relationships, the internet and parents are included. It also gives the reader an insight into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Binge Eating Disorder, two every real and debilitating mental health issues. It also teaches the reader that standing by and watching other people being bullied is just as bad as doing the bullying. 

Luby has managed to write a novel which feels real and steers clear of long, repetitive passages. It moves along at a good pace.

This beautiful and touching story teaches us so many things. We need to be okay in our own skin and accept who we are so that others can accept us. Life is not perfect, but perfectly messy. We need to talk to people and get help if needed. Everyone has something that causes some level of anxiety. It is how we manage that anxiety that makes the difference. Life is not black and white; there are many shades of grey. We can be diametrically opposed in our thinking but we can always find a common ground if we allow ourselves to listen to others.

The reader is taken on a ride with Sadie as she swings from high to low while working out who she is and her place in the world. Sadie Starr’s Guide to Starting Over is heart-warming, sad, and happy, but most of all a really good read.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Text Publishing
Released: August 2022
RRP: $22.99

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