A was the first letter in the alphabet. And Aliki was always first.
At least she remembers something, Liza decided, even if it is about Aliki. Walking to the photo on the mantelpiece, she couldn’t help but smile. The two of them, six years of age, arms around Yiayia’s ample waist. Where had that woman gone?
It is the summer holidays, but instead of spending them with her cousin and best friend Aliki on the beach, Liza is on the way to Greece. She and her mother are collecting her grandmother, Yiayia, to bring her home to Australia to live. But Yiayia has changed – she isn’t at all like Liza remembers. Worse still Yiayia doesn’t seem to remember Liza. But Yiayia does remember her terrible secret, a secret which has eaten away at her and at the rest of the family, for years. Bringing her home to Australia will force the whole family to confront the past.
Back in Australia, Liza and Aliki find it increasingly difficult to maintain their friendship. Liza is jealous that Yiayia remembers Aliki but not her. Everyone seems to like outgoing, cheeky Aliki, more than quiet Liza. And Aliki is jealous of Liza, who she thinks is keeping Yiayia to herself. It is a difficult summer for both girls as they confront the past and figure out their futures.
Aliki Says is a moving tale of family, memories and forgetting. Author Savvides brings past and present, Australia and Greece together in a beautifully woven story which holds much to ponder not just for teen readers but also for adults. Issues of family loyalty, of cross-cultural marriages, of friendship and of the challenges of aging are explored in a poignant, skilful rendering which is not heavy to read, but certainly deals with weighty issues.
Aliki Says, by Irini Savvides
Random House, 2006