Colt Jenson and his younger brother, Bastian, have moved to a new, working-class suburb. The Jensons are different. Their father, Rex, showers them with gifts — toys, bikes, all that glitters most — and makes them the envy of the neighborhood. To the local kids, the Jensons are a family out of a movie, and Rex a hero — successful, attentive, attractive, always there to lend a hand. But to Colt he's an impossible figure: unbearable, suffocating. Has Colt got Rex wrong, or has he seen something in his father that will destroy their fragile new lives? This brilliant and unflinching new novel reveals internationally acclaimed author Sonya Hartnett at her most intriguing and psychologically complex.
When the affluent Jensons move into town, it's difficult for the neighborhood children to see past the allure of the fancy toys, bikes, and aboveground pool that sons Colt and Bastian have. Syd Kiley, his brother Declan, and their friends Avery and Garrick befriend the new boys, while Syd's oldest sister, Freya, takes a shine to Mr. Jenson, idolizing this more attractive counterpart to her own drunken father and chaotic family. It's clear that unhappiness simmers beneath the surface in this neighborhood, with everyone believing that "the things they don't want are all they have." But similarities exist between these disparate individuals, and as Hartnett's narrative methodically unfolds, lurking secrets reveal themselves, with many children paying the price for their parents' failings. Writing in an Australian vernacular and alternating among the perspectives of Colt, Freya, and Syd, Hartnett (Butterfly) skillfully weaves metaphors and foreshadowing into her affecting prose, such as Freya's view of the world as a castle to explore, and her darker vision of a haunting yellow-eyed monster. Hartnett's examination of different forms of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse is an unsettling, often brutal must-read. Ages 14 up.