Where We Begin – Christie Nieman – Pan Australia – 25 August 2020
Seventeen-year-old Anna is running into the night. Fleeing her boyfriend, her mother, and everything she has known.
She is travelling into the country, to the land and the grandparents she has never met, looking for answers to questions that have never been asked.
For every family has secrets.
But some secrets – once laid bare – can never be forgiven.
Where We Begin is a beautiful story about belonging.
Everything is a bit of a mystery when you start reading Where We Begin. The blurb on the back of the book is vague and the start of the story places our main character alone on bus, we don’t know where she is going or why. We don’t know where she has come from. We don’t know why she left or what she is going to. We don’t even know her name. It’s hard to write a review without revealing these mysteries, so if you want the authentic experience, go, read the book and then come back.
Where We Begin weaves into its story powerful truths about the history of Australia, racism, teenage relationships, family and domestic violence, alcoholism and its effects, and storytelling. The title makes so much sense to so many aspects of the story once you’ve read the book. Honestly, there is so much to love about this book, from our studious and determined main character who is thrown into a spin over her new circumstances, the trauma she has experienced throughout her childhood and the new pain she experiences as she learns the truth about her family and past.
Yet for all the hurt and pain, for the remembering, there is a lot of joy in this book. Thanks in part to my favourite character Basil. He’s awesome. But as we learn, just because he is positive and funny doesn’t mean he isn’t so much more than that.
A beautiful, complicated story. There are so many wrongs that need to be acknowledged, so much hurt to be fixed. It’s hard to know where to start but books like this are a good beginning, I think.
Category: Young adult fiction
Genre: Realistic fiction
Themes: Racism, teen pregnancy, relationships, domestic violence, abuse, abortion, family, family breakdown, alcoholism.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Frequent coarse language, f***, sh**, ar******, pi**. Sexual references, references to sexual relationships, abortion, teen pregnancy. Violence, domestic violence, injury, medical descriptions, blood. References to massacre. Racism and racial abuse.
Representation: White main protagonist, white/European characters, aboriginal main characters.
Published: 25 August 2021 by Pan Australia
Format: Paperback, ebook. 368 pages.