An easy to read book about first love, surfing and equality.
Lisa Walker is an Australian author who has written novels for both adults and young adults. The Girl with the Gold Bikini is her sixth novel. In her spare time Walker loves to surf where she lives on the north coast of New South Wales, and in this novel she writes about what she knows best.
In The Girl with the Gold Bikini, we meet Olivia Grace who is an 18-year-old girl, temporarily living with her grandmother and 10-year-old sister on the Gold Coast while her parents are trekking in Nepal. She has been accepted into a law degree but has always desired to become a Private Investigator because of her love of both Veronica Mars and Nancy Drew.
An old friend from 10 years ago, Rosco, has his own agency, so she begins to work for him. As children, Rosco and Olivia saw themselves as a team, much like Han Solo and Princess Leia, and throughout the book, Olivia occasionally thinks and speaks like Yoda. This was at first disconcerting as I was not sure whether I was reading it correctly, but I did become used to it and found it amusing.
Soon after starting work at the agency, Olivia finds herself in the middle of a mystery when they are hired to look into a possible case of adultery. Soon, yoga instructors and a sushi franchise find themselves at odds with lovers of whales and people start to disappear. Olivia finds herself going undercover as a yoga instructor, being part of an animal rights group trying to save whales and trying out speed dating. She also loves the odd disguise or two, and we find her dressing in a blonde wig and faux leather pants or raiding her grandmother’s wardrobe to help her remain incognito.
Two years ago, Olivia was the victim of a sexual assault on holiday at Byron Bay and throughout the book she tries to find a way to get through her feelings of anger and shame and get back her “power”. Themes found in the story are equal opportunity, being your true self, body image, women standing up for themselves against the system, sexism, and it is an advocate for the #metoo conversations. It is not just a book about one girl but also has many other strong female characters. Her independent grandmother lives her life on her own terms and the women Olivia meets along the way are also learning to stand up for themselves.
It is also about the beginnings of first love. It has more innocence than other young adult novels and this is a refreshing point of difference.
At first glance I was worried it would be a book just be about surfing but I was pleasantly mistaken. It is much more than that. Fun is made of the different surfing terms used in this community.
Written in the first person, Olivia tells her story well. Unlike some books, information is not constantly repeated and I never felt like I was wading through the text. The Girl with the Gold Bikini was easy to read and kept me interested from start to finish.
Reviewed by Sue Mauger
Distributed by: Wakefield Press
Released: February 2020