I am in awe of Steph Bowe. Her second novel, All This Could End, is so confident and perceptive that it is difficult to believe its author is only 18 years old. Her outstanding evocation of what it is like to be ‘on the verge’ of adulthood demonstrates a degree of self-awareness that most writers achieve only with the benefit of hindsight. All This Could End is an adolescent romance with a twist: the girl, Nina Pretty, is part of a family of serial bank robbers. While Nina longs to be completely honest with Spencer, she knows that she must remain detached to protect her criminal family. Without diminishing the humour of this absurd scenario, Bowe makes it resonate with pathos. Her style has an introspective streak that emerges a little too strongly in the final 50 pages to spoil what might otherwise have been a tense and satisfying climax. By this stage, however, most readers will have become so attached to the characters that they won’t care. Sophia Pretty is a particular highlight; a pathological mother figure with a flair for emotional blackmail who, while exaggerated, is sure to have teenage readers everywhere nodding in recognition.
Samuel Williams is a creative writing graduate and a part-time bookseller at Mostly Books in South Australia. This review first appeared in the Summer 2012/13 issue of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.