The unexpected mess of it all by Gabrielle Tozer

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When Jamila Dakhoul’s family need somewhere to live, after their property is destroyed by fire, their friends, Krista and Charlotte are quick to offer them a caravan in their backyard until they can rebuild. The families have been close since Billy Radcliff and Jamila were born 5 hours apart and the mums became friends. Now 18 and in year twelve Jamila is having to deal not only with the trauma of the fire and the humiliation of having to accept charity but also the incessant bullying prevalent at her school, and to make it worse, Billy has become friends with the worst offenders. One of the ways she keeps going is by posting to her YouTube channel called ‘Jam and Scream', sharing everyday events with her many followers, much to the disgust of her younger brother Elijah who can't see the point. Each year the families go to Hamil Bay Holiday Park for a long weekend in April, what used to be Jamila’s 'happy place' where she and Billy with friend Daphne Chen would make lasting memories. But this year Billy is planning on going to a party instead of the camping trip and Daphne hasn’t been in touch. After a series of terrible incidents at school, both Jamila and Billy find themselves under close parental scrutiny, compelled to make the camping trip, Jamila without her phone. When things seem to have reached rock bottom the deep friendships formed over many years are rekindled and, with the help of a polaroid camera, Jamila’s 'happy place' works its magic.

In this fast-paced romance and coming of age story bullying is taken to a whole new level through social media but being connected is also how Jamila deals with her situation and finds support outside the family. All lightened with a fine dusting of humour a nice addition to Australian young adult fiction. Teacher's notes are available.

Themes: Relationships, Bullying, Coming of age.

Sue Speck