Book Review: I Had Such Friends – Be prepared for one hell of a book hangover
Be prepared to love Hamish Day so much it hurts and to want to desperately protect him from the pain of growing up as one of the poor kids in a rural town.
Reminiscently capturing the warm and raw voices of Charlie Kelmeckis from The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Clay Jensen from Thirteen Reasons Why, I Had Such Friends is an important story about self-discovery, grief and finding your voice.
I Had Such Friends Book Blurb
When Charlie Parker dies, it affects everyone who knew him. Everyone, that is, except for seventeen-year-old Hamish Day, the boy who lives on a cabbage farm and only has one friend. But Hamish soon finds himself pulled into the complicated lives of the people left behind. Among them is Annie Bower, the prettiest girl ins school. As he uncovers startling truths about his peers, his perspectives on friendship, love, grief and the tragic power of silence are forever altered.
With hard-hitting themes including unrequited love, abuse, neglect, sexuality, bullying, prejudice, death and suicide, I Had Such Friends is a poignant journey of self-discovery, grief and the tragic power of silence. A gripping look at adolescent pain with a narrative maturity that accurately reflects its YA milieu, I Had Such Friends resonates with young adult audiences and pushes them to reflect on their own ‘sliding doors’ moment.
Duffy’s Thoughts On I Had Such Friends
I had just finished ready Hey, Brother and jumping headfirst into I Had Such Friends by Meg Gatland-Veness gave me no respite from heartbreak. Meg has written intentionally for a YA audience, yet these themes are pretty raw and will grip the hearts of adult readers with icy cold fingers as they fall back in time to their own awkward and confusing teenage years.
The loneliness of Hamish is so delicately dealt with, it feels like an aura, enveloping him and becoming that thin veil, a barrier between himself, his family and his classmates. I can picture exactly what the family home looked and smelt like, the parents who are toiling out on the cabbage farm to keep their heads above water and the dusty roads which lead to pristine beaches and surf, where Hamish can escape to and forget who he is, just for a little bit.
“She was into thick, dark mascara and black nail polish and lipstick. She used to dress really crazy too. Now she lives in Sydney and I hear her wardrobe is entirely made up of pastels. That makes me sad. I wonder if she is a totally different person now or if that moody emo chick is still inside her mauve cardigans.”
I Had Such Friends starts at the end. A popular local boy, Charlie Parker dies and we shadow Hamish as he awkwardly navigates school, friends, family and tries to find his place in the small town. His frustrations with his one friend, his desire to fit in, his wish to be a part of something, and his deep desire to feel comfortable in his own skin can be almost unbearable to read at times. But, Meg writes with a true love for Hamish and an authenticity and tenderness which comes from first-hand experience and in-depth knowledge of the themes.
Teenagers and adults alike will relate to this book and hopefully encourage conversations in schools, colleges, friends and family homes. There are powerful and triggering themes in this book, but be safe in the knowledge that the author has handled them with care.
An outstanding piece of fiction which will stay with you forever.
Published Aug 1 by Pantera Press
Buy your copy here
Read if you liked Tom Houghton, Wimmera and Hey Brother