BOOK REVIEW: Cargo (Jessica Au, Picador)

Jessica Au’s debut novel Cargo is a stunning and compelling read. The novel weaves together the stories of three teenagers finding their way in the early 1990s in Currawong, a small Australian coastal town in which the lives of residents are invariably influenced by the water that surrounds them. Frankie is carrying the implications of her parents’ tumultuous relationship as well as her own desires for the new deckhand on her father’s boat. Gillian is weighed down by an accident at sea years before, but gets a glimpse of what love could feel like when she meets Alex. And Jacob is consumed by jealousy for his older brother and his unrequited love for the mysterious girl at the swimming pool. Au captures the rawness of her protagonists’ emotions with compassion and skill, as well as refreshing honesty. There are no clichés in Cargo—no predictable, Hollywood-type endings. Instead, the complexity and uncertainty of growing up is celebrated in this unique snapshot of adolescence which will be appreciated by readers of all ages.

Eloise Keating is a journalist with Bookseller+Publisher magazine and the Weekly Book Newsletter. This review first appeared in the July issue of the magazine. You can view the magazine online here.

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