The Rage of Sheep, by Michelle Cooper

TA DAH! I am writing this as I walk to Science, which is pretty skilful of me. Lynda has hold of my left elbow and is steering me away from rubbish bins, brick walls, etc while she continues her debate with Natalie about whether Julie Jameson (now officially going with Shane Bellwether) is a bitch or merely a stupid cow. You know, this writing-in motion thing is pretty easy, I could do my homework while I’m walking the dog…
Will write more later.

The Rage of Sheep begins with the main character, fifteen year old Hester Jones, writing letters to her best friend, Krystena. Krystena has moved to the coast, leaving Hester behind to hang around with Natalie and Lynda. Natalie is using the guest list for her 16th birthday celebrations as a weapon, Lynda is madly in love and Hester has been paired with weird Joshua Mason for a project on evolution. His family belong to a fundamentalist Christian group whose beliefs include creationism. Meanwhile Hester does well at Maths, suffers the embarrassment of having her father present awards at School Assembly, gets to know the new English teacher and tries to decide whether Joshua really likes her. She also has to avoid Alistair McDonald and the Jameson girls. It’s a full life.

Secondary school can be a minefield for many teenagers as they negotiate their way through friendships, attractions, enemies, parents, curfews, expectations and hormone clouds. The Rage of Sheep, set in 1984, includes all of these and more. Hester is a convincing character, a good student from a supportive family. She has a developed sense of self, and only a mild dose of angst about her perceived shortcomings. There are serious issues explored here, but they are handled with humour. Hester’s point of view is unreliable, as is appropriate, and stronger for that. The reader can sometimes see what’s going to happen before Hester does. The title comes from a quote by James Whistler. Sheep are cited by Joshua as being those favoured by God, and by her English teacher as being followers, not leaders. This is a lightly-handled, funny and entertaining story. Recommended for middle- to upper-secondary readers.

The Rage of Sheep

The Rage of Sheep, by Michelle Cooper
Random House Australia 2007
ISBN: 9781741662405

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