Please Don’t Hug Me – Kay Kerr – Text Publishing – Published 28 April 2020
Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.
What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.
Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…
This is the book that everyone is talking about right now. Honestly, I was on board with the pink cover and cinnamon doughnuts, but bonus points for #ownvoices, local Aussie author, diverse character voice representation and a realistic story about growing up, fitting in and learning that it is okay to be different.
Please Don’t Hug Me is written entirely in the form of letters from our main character Erin, to her brother Rudy. We readers don’t know where or why Rudy isn’t at home anymore, but Erin is working through a few things and has been tasked by her therapist to write letters. Through these letters, which include enough dialogue and reflection on events to feel like you are in the middle of each situation, we readers learn about Erin’s friendships, her work, getting through the last year of school, looking forward to things like schoolies, but also feeling out of the loop as she is unable to read social cues or properly fit in with her best-friend’s group of school fiends. A new job, a new friend and working through her feelings about her brother and family, might just be the things she needs to make it through the year.
Written by local Sunshine Coast woman, Kay Kerr, Please Don’t Hug Me is OzYA #OwnVoices at its best. Erin is on the autism spectrum, and while writing this book Kay Kerr was learning more about her own autism spectrum diagnosis. Erin’s voice is unique and authentic. She is also completely relatable to everyone who has experienced social anxiety, not fitting in at school or with a particular group of friends or maybe just doesn’t feel comfortable with the mainstream crowd.
There are some honestly laugh out loud moments in this book. It is equally heartwarming and heartbreaking. From licence tests that go badly to changes in friendships and the moments at work for which you know you aren’t paid enough. As we learn more about Erin’s family and her brother, a deeper heartbreak and mess of feelings is revealed.
Easy to read and enjoy, Please Don’t Hug Me is a delightful book.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Autism, grief, brothers, family, letters, therapy, coming of age, high school, driving, work, friendship, Australia, #ownvoices
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references. References to drug and alcohol use. Infrequent coarse language. Mature themes: death.
Representation: Main character has autism. Indigenous Australian secondary character.
Published: 28 April 2020 by Text Publishing.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 288 pages.