Ocean Pearl, by J. C. Burke

The pact we’d made that January night at camp, that moment when the four of us had placed our hands on top of one another’s and shouted ‘To the Starfish sisters’, had been broken – by me and only by me. If anything, Georgie had protected me by not telling the others. But because of that I knew she felt like she had broken the pact too.

Six months ago, at a surf camp, the Starfish sisters made a `pact. Now they are back together, but only for a weekend before three of the four head off to another camp, to select the national team. Ace, the prettiest, most talented of the four, has missed selection. But that is not her only problem, and nor are the other three friends without problems of their own. Micki’s dad is a drug addict, Kia self-harms, and Georgie is drowning in lies. Amidst all this, is it possible for them to once again be the Starfish Sisters, and to make the team?

Ocean Pearl is a sequel to Starfish Sisters, but has enough back story to stand alone for a reader who has not read the first. The four girls take turns telling the story from their first person perspectives, allowing the reader to engage with each character. Keen surfers will enjoy the surfing scenes, and the plot deals with some serious issues in an accessible way. The issue of self-harm, particularly, is dealt with sensitively.

A great read for teen girls.

Ocean Pearl

Ocean Pearl, by J. C. Burke
Random House, 2008

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The Story of Tom Brennan, by JC Burke

Reviewed by Delwyne Stephens

This book for 13+ teens is so real it hurts. Week after week the news screams of stories about road trauma and the very many hapless, often speeding and drunk young male drivers. The Story of Tom Brennanis about the fall-out victims of such car accidents. The brother (Tom), the sister, the uncle, the mum and dad and the grandmother who in this story takes them all in. The criminal – the reckless and risk taking son, best mate and footy partner Daniel – goes to jail.

This book made me uncomfortable and it made me cry. It was almost too real for me – the deeply depressed mother particularly angered me and I wanted to shake her out of her malaise. I didn’t feel at ease until Tom began to get constructive about his grief and inch by inch he moved away from his pain and began to gain a renewed sense of self. There is no winner in a story that tackles the death of close friends and the quadriplegia of a cousin. But Burke handles the subject matter with sensitivity. Her background as a nurse is evident in the book. She has seen suffering and she has seen moving on and this is one of strengths of this story. I can’t say I enjoyed The Story of Tom Brennan, but it is compelling reading.

The Story of Tom Brennan, by JC Burke
Random House, 2006

You can visit the site of Delwyne Stephens at: www.delwynestephens.blogspot.com