Title: Here’s the Thing
Author: Emily O’Beirne
Publication Date: October 19th, 2016
Publisher: Ylva Publishing
Shelves: Young Adult; Contemporary; LGBT+; FF Romance
Format: eBook (201 pages)
Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3 stars
It’s only for a year. That’s what sixteen-year-old Zel keeps telling herself after moving to Sydney for her dad’s work. She’ll just wait it out until she gets back to New York and Prim, her epic crush/best friend, and the unfinished subway project. Even if Prim hasn’t spoken to her since that day on Coney Island.
But Zel soon finds life in Sydney won’t let her hide. There’s her art teacher, who keeps forcing her to dig deeper. There’s the band of sweet, strange misfits her cousin has forced her to join for a Drama project. And then there’s the curiosity that is the always-late Stella.
As she waits for Prim to explain her radio silence and she begins to forge new friendships, Zel feels strung between two worlds. Finally, she must figure out how to move on while leaving no one behind.
I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley and Ylva Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
“What I will do here is what all the heroines in the novels do. I will endure. […] But the whole time, I’ll be hoping that we’re going back at the end of it. Because home is where Prim is.”
Just when she is settling into her new life in New York, sixteen year old Zel (short for Zelda – Fitzgerald, not The Legend of) is once again forced to up and leave for a new life in Sydney due to her dad’s career. While Zel leaves willingly for her parent’s sakes, she is reluctant to say goodbye to Primulka, her not-so-aspiring model friend, who is signed to Zel’s mother’s modelling agency. This is partly due to Zel and Prim’s plan to ride the entirety of New York’s subway lines. But Zel also has romantic feelings for Prim, and when she finally admits these feelings, Prim starts avoiding her. As Zel begins her new life in Sydney, her narrative flits between her New York past and her Sydney present, as she is torn between two different cities, and the people within them.
I wasn’t too sure of Zel’s character at first. In the early chapters of the novel, she chooses to do Drama at her new school, and then is mortified to discover that the students are expected to act. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Zel if she kept making silly decisions like this throughout. But thankfully, her character improves significantly as the novel progresses. She’s a very cool and collected character, she has a great relationship with her parents, and she thinks and behaves like a sixteen year old, thank God! I also liked the way Zel’s sexuality is represented in the novel. She’s gay, but her sexuality isn’t the most defining thing about her.
My opinions of Zel are in contrast to those of Prim. Initially, I was interested in Prim’s character – she’s very aloof and mysterious, and like Zel I was curious about her. But with each of Zel’s flashbacks, I grew annoyed with Prim. She’s mostly pretentious and judgemental, and while I sympathised with her home situation, amongst other personal issues Prim had, I didn’t see it as a reason for her to behave the way she did. I’m also disappointed with the way Prim’s sexuality is (not) handled. I won’t say too much to avoid spoilers, but while Zel gets a happy ending, Prim’s is pretty ambivalent. I think it’s a real shame, especially for readers who identify with Prim’s feelings, only for her to not get a concrete ending. I was honestly saddened by this.
Zel’s friends at her new school were again, realistic for their age, and pretty entertaining. Her friendship group consists of Stella, Michael, Ashani, and Zel’s cousin Antony. All these characters added humour and a light-heartedness to the novel which contrasted to Zel’s heartbreak over Prim. I do feel however that these characters could have been focused on a little more. O’Beirne creates a sort of love triangle between Michael, Antony, and Ashani. Zel becomes aware of this very early in the novel, and it brought up in her narrative numerous times. But we never get a resolution of who, or even if, Ashani ends up with one of the guys. I’m sure a lot of readers won’t care about this lack of resolution – but it is brought up several times in the novel, only for it to not have an outcome. I was slightly disappointed. However, my favourite character of this group was Stella. She’s a very sensible, strong and surprisingly sweet character, and her slow-growing friendship with Zel was my favourite thing about this novel.
As for the plot, I found it pretty lacklustre at first. I didn’t start enjoying the novel until the half-way mark. It is around this time that Zel becomes more active in her present life with school and her new friends, which surprised me as it was the subway project that drew my attention to this novel initially. I liked the jumps between New York and Sydney – O’Beirne does a great job of describing the contrasting cities – but I do feel that it negatively impacted the pacing of the novel somewhat. Zel’s fixation on her past (although understandable) means that her present and the people in it aren’t as focused on in her narrative – and I found Zel’s new life in Sydney way more interesting to read about.
Here’s the Thing is a fun book. Twenty-something-year-old me thought this book was just okay. But I think teenage me would have enjoyed and appreciated this novel a lot more.
Would you read this novel again? No, but I would read other novels by O’Bierne
Who would I recommend this novel to? Fans of YA contemp romances, readers looking for LGBT+ fiction where the focus isn’t coming out, fans of Sarah Dessen