Always Mackenzie by Kate Constable - Jem is a nerd, smart and forthright. Mackenzie is a golden girl, excelling at schoolwork, sport and drama, and popular with everyone. One night, at the Year 10 camp, Jem and Mackenzie strike up an unlikely friendship and are soon spending all their time together. But when camp ends, can Mackenzie and Jem maintain their bond at school, with all its unspoken rules, fierce cliques and easy misunderstandings? From Amazon UK
Always Mackenzie is a sweet, quick read, and my first novel of the Month with lesbian protagonists.
Mackenzie is popular; smart, beautiful, and brilliant at drama and tennis. Jem is one of the unpopular girls at school. Neither of them mix. When everyone else seems to be going crazy during a group session while away at school camp, getting all over emotional, Jem and Mackenzie unbelievably bond over their shock at how everyone else is behaving. They soon find, despite their differences, they get on really well, and soon start spending as much time together as possible. Things get a little strange once they're back at school after the summer holidays, and all of a sudden, Mackenzie acts cold and distant, like she has no idea who Jem is. Jem doesn't understand what's going on, but has trouble dealing with Mackenzie breezing in and out of her life so suddenly.
Always Mackenzie is a story of two girls' first crush on each other, and coming to terms with discovering they're lesbians. Jem at first just thinks she's found a great friend; no-one else gets her like Mackenzie does. They trust each other, and tell each other things they've never told anyone else. Jem is flattered to have the trust and attention of someone so popular, that Mackenzie would even want to know her. But when she suddenly disappears, Jem is distraught. How can she go back to the way life was before, knowing how much better it is with a friend who understands you and doesn't judge you. How can she go back to having just her old friends, who she realises aren't the best friends to have anyway? When she discovers that Mackenzie has a boyfriend, she is overcome with unexplainable jealousy that she just doesn't understand.
As I've said, Mackenzie is extremely talented, and is expected to be a certain type of person. As the popular girl, she has to be seen to be doing and saying the right things to keep her reputation. To do the opposite would be to lose everything. Not only that, but her parents and her teachers are expecting her to have a future as a star actress or a tennis player; her father especially would go mad if she did anything different. When she's unable to just be herself and follow her own dreams rather than those others dream for her, accepting that she's a lesbian too, and the reaction her family would have to such an announcement, Mackenzie decides it's better to ignore it all and cut Jem out of her life.
A sweet, quick story, Always Mackenzie is a book full of struggles with trying to work out who you are, trying to be who you are, and discovering sexuality.
Thank you to Allen and Unwin for the review copy.
Published: 1st September 2011
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Buy on Amazon US
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