Out of This Place

By Emma Cameron
Published on May 14th 2013
Published by Candlewick Press
Source: Netgalley
In verse, three teen voices sound. Beach bum Luke works shifts at the local supermarket, and avoids trouble at school. His mate Bongo gets wasted, blocks out memories of the little brother social services took away and avoids the stepdad who hits him. Casey, the girl they both love, dreams of escaping to a free new life.

I very rarely read books in verse, so I wasn't completely sure what to expect with this one, but Out of This Place was a moving look at three Australian teenagers coming of age, often under very difficult circumstances.

The stories of Luke, Bongo, and Casey all overlap in some ways, but you need the perspectives of all three teens to know the full story. In Luke's, we only get glimpses of Bongo and Casey -- we see them through his eyes as he tries to imagine their struggles, and we need their own first-person tales to get their perspective and to complete the stories.

The verse is simple and reads easily, and overall it didn't feel much different than reading a handful of interconnected short stories.  I imagine that it's hard to give each character distinctive voices in verse, and sometimes things felt a bit muddled but overall Cameron did a great job at making Luke, Bongo, and Casey all unique voices.  I really felt for each of the characters as their stories twisted and turned, and you learned more of their circumstances.

Telling the story in verse does cut down on extraneous details, plotlines, etc.  Everything we get here is essential to the story and to the growth of the characters.  So while sometimes I wish it were padded out a bit more, I don't think it would have fit the fact that this is a story in verse, not traditional prose.

Some of the facts of the story may be a little inaccessible to US readers (or maybe non-Australians?).  Aside from slang, the book presumes (and rightly so, being an Australian-set book by an Australian writer) you have an understanding of how the Australian education system works.  Maybe it was a bigger stumbling block for me, getting caught up on details of "wait, how are they working in the middle of the day?" and such.

Some topics in the book include drug/alcohol abuse, homelessness, and teen pregnancy, and there is some sexual content, though nothing is described explicitly.

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