Promise Me Happy – Robert Newton – Penguin Books Australia – Published 7 May 2019
Nate’s had it tough. An abusive father. His mother dead. He’s done things he regrets.
But he’s never met anyone like Gem. She’s a tiny piece of wonderful and she’ll change everything he knows about himself. Is this the beginning of happiness? Or is there more hardship around the corner?
Promise Me Happy – a moving, authentically Aussie coming of age story at its best. Perfect for fans of YA contemporary fiction about relationships, family and finding a place to belong, Promise Me Happy is a soothing, gently-paced and touching novel.
Nate knows this is his last chance. Leaving juvie to live with an uncle he doesn’t know, Nate has low expectations about this next phase in his life, yet it can’t be worse than returning to live with his drunk and abusive father and memories of his dead mother. But living with uncle isn’t at all what he expects, nor the charming little fishing town, the slower lifestyle, space to breath, quirky young neighbour, Henry or the intriguing, combat-boot and tartan-wearing Gem. It may be just the second chance Nate needs, if he can hang on to it.
Promise Me Happy is a beautiful story. Authentically Australian, poignant, with themes of belonging, family, bullying, prejudice and new beginnings. It is charming, relaxing and addictive. It took me a quarter of the book to really connect with the characters and the pace of the story, but once I did, I really enjoyed this book.
I loved Henry. He is quirky, charming and the perfect sounding board for Nate. He brings Nate out of himself and shows Nate that he has a really caring side, which is so important given his criminal history and relationship with his father.
While Nate’s relationship with Gem and the complications this bring, is a prominent feature of the story, it never overshadows the messages of second chances and growth of Nate’s character.
Nate is the narrator and main protagonist of Promise Me Happy. At the start of the book, there were a few times Nate said things that made him sound like a 50-year-old Aussie White guy, but by middle of the story he had really come into his own and reads as a realistic teen guy.
Promise Me Happy will be the perfect book to hand to teens who enjoy emotion-driven YA fiction and a nice addition to the group of many international titles that evoke similar themes.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Family, belonging, death, grief, cancer, romance, relationships, abuse, juvenile incarceration, Australia.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Vague sexual references. References to violence, child abuse, beatings, fist fights. Infrequent coarse language, f*** (7), sh** (9), bug*** (1), pi** (2), pri** (2), ars***** (2), sl** (2), di** (1), bas**** (2).
Published: 7 May 2019 by Penguin Books Australia.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 192 pages.