Saving Jazz, by Kate McCaffrey

My name is Jasmine Lovely, Jazz usually (unless I’m in trouble), and I’m a rapist. In fact, I’m guilty of more than just rape but, as my lawyer says, in the interests of judicial fairness, we can’t be prejudicial. It’s hard enough to admit rape. As a girl, people look at you exceptionally hard. People look at you blankly. Not that it’s something I admit to often, like I just did to you.

Jazz has a pretty good life: she’s pretty, popular and smart. She lives in the small town of Greenhead, a seemingly idyllic settlement north of Perth. Like the other teenagers, she likes to party, to drink and to use social media. But when those three things all spin out of control one fateful night, the consequences are terrible – for Jazz, for her best friends Annie and Jack, and for the whole community of Greenhead.

Saving Jazz is a gritty, chilling story of cyber bullying and the use of social media, following the story of what can happen when these two get out of control. With the viewpoint character, Jazz, telling her story through a blog, we are given the insight of someone who has been both bystander and perpetrator, with the book being told after the major event, looking back, but then progressing to beyond the time when the blog is started, with 43 ‘posts’ spanning several years.

McCaffrey is known for broaching difficult topics, and Saving Jazz is no exception. AT the same time, though, the story has plenty of warm moments, offering hope both for the characters and for the reader.

An outstanding young adult read.

Saving Jazz, by Kate McCaffrey
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925163582

Crashing Down, by Kate McCaffrey

She’s sitting under a tree, knees pulled up to her chest, waiting for her mum. All she can imagine is Carl and JD in the car. She cringes and tries to make the images disappear, but they won’t. She imagines Carl and JD in hospital beds. A broken neck – that doesn’t necessarily mean paralysis; she’s sure she’s heard of people who have broken their necks and totally recovered. And what’s a coma anyway – isn’t that just sleeping? Don’t people usually wake after a little while?

The end of year 12 is drawing close, and Lucy can sense change coming. It’s time to knuckle down and study hard, to make sure she does well. She has plans for after school, too. Perhaps she doesn’t need to be a serious relationship with Carl, especially when he seems to smother her – except for the night of the formal when he ignores her. Breaking up with someone can be difficult, but for Lucy, it’s very very complicated.

Crashing Down is a gripping tale of consequences, life choices and growing up the hard way. Like any seventeen year old school leaver, Lucy has hopes and dreams, but she also has some pretty hefty decisions to make, and after her boyfriend is injured in a car accident, and she realises she is pregnant, those decisions are pretty weighty.

McCaffrey doesn’t shy away from putting her characters in difficult situations, and Lucy’s situation is one which would challenge any teen – or adult. But the chain of events which follows is both plausible and thought provoking.

Suitable for older teens.

Crashing Down, by Kate McCaffrey
Fremantle Press, 2014
ISBN 9781922089854

Available from good bookstores or online.

In Ecstasy, by Kate McCaffrey

My body ached and my face was sore – I guess from smiling so much. I don’t remember ever laughing more. A new world had opened up for me, a place where I was confident and beautiful and a hot guy like Lewis wanted to be with me. That morning I figured life couldn’t get any better. How could something that made you feel like that be bad for you?

Mia and Sophie are best friends. They do everything together, and always have. So when they go to a party and are offered ecstasy, both girls take the plunge and pop a pill. For Mia, taking ecstasy seems to open up a whole new world. Her shyness disappears and she becomes vivacious, beautiful, popular. But as her social circle grows and her new relationship with Lewis -a year twelve boy – blossoms, her friendship with Sophie suffers.

Kate McCaffrey is an author who not only deals with teen issues, but deals with them head-on in a way which is both confronting and realistic. In her previous novel, Destroying Avalon she explored cyber bullying. Here, she tackles the growing issue of teenage drug use. Rather than trying to simply explore the consequences of drug taking, McCaffrey takes readers inside the life of the teen characters, showing why they make the decisions do. For Mia, using ecstasy and other drugs seems to offer a solution to her problems, rather than being a problem itself. For her friend Sophie, ecstasy is also a temptation, but her experiences are different. Sophie has her own set of problems to deal with.

This is a gritty novel on an important subject.

In Ecstasy, by Kate McCaffrey
Fremantle Press, 2008

Destroying Avalon, by Kate McCaffrey

I stared at the email in disbelief, the skin around my mouth prickling in horror … I had to know what they were saying. I shut my eyes and clicked on the link.

When Avalon’s mum is offered a better job in Perth, Avalon reluctantly agrees to the move. Maybe it won’t be too bad in the city. But from her very first day at her new school, Avalon realises just how bad it can be. The kids at her new school seem to hate her, and soon she finds herself the focus of a brutal cyber-bullying campaign. Chat rooms and message boards are full of vitriol about her and her phone beeps regularly to deliver obscene text messages.

Avalon’s only support is a small group of friends – all also left out and isolated – who let her sit with them and offer her friendship. She is particularly close to Marshall, who is always positive and full of life, despite himself being a target for bullies. But is Marshall’s optimism just a front, and are either of them safe from the bullies?

Destroying Avalon is an insightful and confronting look at the modern phenomenon of cyber bullying, a phenomenon which is, unfortunately, growing in schools and workplaces. Avalon’s story is told in an honest and believable first-person voice, and will speak as much to teachers and parents as it does to teenage readers, who will recognise the accuracy of much of what happens at Avalon’s school.

This is an important book for teens and those who work with them.

Destroying Avalon, by Kate McCaffrey
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2006