Thanks to Allen & Uwin, I got to read Cracked! It is an Australian YA debut novel by Melbourne writer Clare Strahan, which is due to be released in June, so only a couple of months away! It's about a girl named Clover Jones and all the happenings in her life - school life, family life, friends and fitting in, and trying to find out her place in the world through the creative outlet of vandalism (hehe). The characters were very relatable and realistic, and I think a lot of readers will really connect to Clover in many ways. She's the heart and soul of Cracked, and I think everyone could relate to her some way through the relationships she has with all the people around her - her mum, her teachers, the mean girl at school, the footy player crush, the best friend, the pet dog Lucille.
Clover is an interesting girl, and as soon as I started reading I was getting a sense of her perspective of the world, which is a kinda strange and unique one. I love that Clover is quirky, and daring, and an amazing artist who cares about things. And at the same time she seemed to me a little nerdy, tomboy-ish and really unmaterialistic (none of which are cons)... although even by the end of the novel I'd still not formed a clear image of what she looks like in my mind. I had a clearer picture of the minor characters and what they look like in my head than of herself, which I found a little odd and unfortunate.
But at one point, when Clover mentioned learning to use flop stencils for graffiti, she reminded me so much of the character Bay from the ABC Family tv show Switched At Birth. Bay's also an artist and went through the whole vandalism rebellion stage that Clover went through.
It was about half way through the book before things really began to get exciting for me - Clover was becoming increasingly more troublesome and rebellious, the relationships and friendships were tangling and developing in an interesting way. I had to get used to the rhythm of the storytelling - the format and style was set out like little chunks of prose strung together in a long thread to comprise a chapter. Each chapter was quite long and there were lots of little (but not always little) bites of story (some current, some flashbacks or memories, always alternating). This took a little while to get used to and I think it may be why I found it harder in the beginning to get into the story. But everything became cohesive in the end and it didn't take away from enjoying the sweeter, sentimental moments.
Cracked is so quintessentially Australian in tone, setting and in overall vernacular - many times I found the conversations and dialogues incredibly realistic. I found some of Clover's philosophical convos with her mother a little wearisome and long but I really liked their relationship. But if you enjoy Aussie teen lit, you'll definitely appreciate the Aussie-ness of Cracked. It's a pretty good debut contemporary YA that will definitely make you laugh, and maybe even cry (if the tears will to spill) because I definitely laughed... and maybe even cried.
My rating: 3 stars