Where You Left Us
Rhiannon Wilde, author
Rhiannon Wilde has been telling stories for as long as she can remember—working as a journalist, a terrible barista, and a high-school English teacher in Brisbane, Australia. Rhiannon’s particular interests are caffeine, characters both real and imaginary, and the power of well-strung words to challenge and change us. Her second-person short story inspired by urban Brisbane, You Deserve Nothing, was longlisted for the Queensland Young Writer’s Award in 2014. Her debut novel, Henry Hamlet’s Heart, won the Queensland Literary Awards Glendower Award for an Emerging Queensland Writer in 2019 and was selected as an Indie Introduce and Kids' Indie Next title in the US.
Read more about Rhiannon.
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Two sisters grapple with their father’s depression and their own mental health struggles in this Australian novel.
Cinnamon and Scarlett Prince are well known in their seaside town—their father’s fame from a 1990s band plus their family’s rambling home atop Princes Beach being the site of a tragedy from the 1960s that’s infamous in local lore mean there is no hiding. Older sister Cinnamon guards her feelings; younger sister Scarlett hoped to leave her anxiety attacks behind when she went to boarding school. Their reunion over the summer following Scarlett’s graduation is not a happy one for the estranged sisters. It’s made worse by the appearance of their divorced mother, who shows up after Scarlett contacts her once she sees how poorly their dad is doing. Weaving in family secrets, complicated love interests, and realistic depictions of the sisters’ feelings and internal musings, this novel flavored with gothic romance and mixed with the often funny, self-effacing narrative voices of the girls packs a lot in. The tender awkwardness of both of their burgeoning relationships—Cinnamon’s with her co-worker Daisy and Scarlett’s with Will, Cinnamon’s ex-boyfriend—is sweet and swoonworthy. The family mystery that runs as an undercurrent throughout feels a little tacked on in places but wraps up nicely in the auspicious ending. The sisters are white; Cinnamon is bisexual, as is biracial Daisy, who is Chinese and white.
A poignant, engaging coming-of-age story.
In this mystery/romance/dysfunctional family novel, Cinnamon and Scarlett, two sisters in the Mad Prince family, deal with their mother’s leaving (and return), their father’s descent into depression (and return), and their budding interest in friends and lovers. Cinnamon, who was once close to Scarlett, is furious at having given up her university plans to take care of her father while Scarlett, heedless of her father’s needs and ridden by anxiety and subject to panic attacks, went off to boarding school. Scarlett reluctantly returns home to face Cinnamon’s bewildering anger. Summer gets even more complicated when Amie, the missing mother, returns to help out and chase away despair by burning sage, reading the Tarot cards, and—can the girls believe it?—still maybe loving their dad. Fraught with the tension of an empty grave and a missing ancestor, this fragmented novel shows the girls growing up with lots of emotion. Finally, on a wild road trip with friends across Australia, they solve their family mystery and discover their father’s secret. The two sisters are interesting and engaging characters, although their conflicts sometimes seem overblown. Their two friends/lovers Will and Daisy are sympathetic and entertaining. However, the emphasis on exploring anxiety, depression, gender, and sexuality impedes the flow of the novel. The sprinkling of Australian lingo, references to Sherlock and Watson, and the use of Bronte novels as a tranquilizer for Scarlett add to the novel’s charm.
Ages: 14 and up
Page count: 368
51/2 x 81/4