Always Mackenzie, by Kate Constable

‘We’re doomed.’ Bec dumped her bags beneath the grimy window of the converted shearers shed. ‘We’re all going to die.’
‘Doomed to death?’ said Iris. ‘That’s got to be a tautology.’
‘We won’t die,’ said Georgia. ‘You never know, it might even be fun.’
I said, ‘Can I have the top bunk?’
So what did that say about me?
On the flimsy evidence available, it might seem that I was a practical, confident, brisk kind of person who’d rather get one with things than stand around arguing.
Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again, which shows how inaccurate first impressions can be.

Always Mackenzie begins on the first day of a term-long camp at Heathersett River, the country campus of a private school. Year Ten will spend a term there. Within the first page the reader is introduced to Jem and her three close friends. Camp is supposed to break down the barriers between ‘cliques’ and provide opportunities for all the girls to learn more about themselves and each other. And to some extent it workes. Jem (nerd) and Mackenzie (golden) get to know each other. Georgia (Jem’s friend) and Rosie (Mackenzie’s friend) also become friends. The term ends and they return to regular school. Both new and old friendships are tested. Jem has always been one of the ‘good’ students, managing to swim her way through secondary school avoiding any undue attention. But she can’t stand by when her friend is being bullied. A firm believer in truth and justice, she is stunned at the response to her honesty.

Jem is a reader, a diligent student, a quite achiever. Her life has been ordered, buffered by three friends she met when she began Year Seven. The worst thing about school camp is that she is not allowed to take any books. A pact with Mackenzie to ‘remain enemies’ in the face of saccharine-sweet pretend friendships transforms into a friendship that continues when they return to school. But what was easy to sustain at Heathersett River is much more difficult back at school. Always Mackenzie is a novel about the nature of friendships, the danger of secrets and the complex masks that seldom protect.

This is title 4 in the new Girlfriend series from Allen & Unwin. Although there are common elements to the packaging of this series, each cover is distinctive and engaging, enticing mid-teens into substantial stories. Recommended for 13-16 year olds.

Always Mackenzie, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin 2008
ISBN: 9781741752939

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