‘How about we toss a coin? Heads, it’s west and a lift. Tails, it’s still west, but no lift.’
When James stops for fuel in the Blue Mountains, he doesn’t expect to also pick up a hitchhiker. But Sophie is pretty determined, and soon he has a passenger. He’s heading into the country for his first teacher training placement, and she’s heading home – to visit her mother, she says. But Sophie is not the sort of girl James is used to spending time with. She has an attitude to match her wild hair and her black painted fingernails. James isn’t like that. He’s a conscientious student who lives with his parents. Yet as they travel together the pair form an unlikely friendship – and both reveal the secrets they’ve been keeping.
Black Painted Fingernails is a wonderful road-trip story using the alternating viewpoints of the two protagonists as well as occasional chapters from the viewpoint of one of James’ parents, who are facing their own challenges. Both Sophie and James are honest and, at times, self-deprecating, and their voices are tinged with humour even at difficult moments.
Dealing with issues of family relationships and parental expectations, as well as with friendship, this is an absorbing, uplifting read.
Black Painted Fingernails, by Steven Herrick
Allen & Unwin, 2011
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond.