from Black Inc....
Is it possible for two very different teenagers to fall in love despite high barbed-wire fences and a political wilderness between them?
Anahita is passionate, curious and determined. She is also an Iranian asylum seeker who is only allowed out of detention to attend school. On weekdays, during school hours, she can be a ‘regular Australian girl’.
Jono needs the distraction of an infatuation. In the past year his mum has walked out, he’s been dumped and his sister has moved away. Lost and depressed, Jono feels as if he’s been left behind with his Vietnamese single father, Kenny.
Kenny is struggling to work out the rules in his new job; he recently started work as a guard at the Wickham Point Detention Centre. He tells Anahita to look out for Jono at school, but quickly comes to regret this, spiraling into suspicion and mistrust. Who is this girl, really? What is her story? Is she a genuine refugee or a queue jumper? As Jono and Anahita grow closer, Kenny starts snooping behind the scenes …
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Anahita grew up in Iran and came to Australia via refugee boat. Kenny was sponsored out by his family and Jonathan was born here. Claire Atkins’ novel Between Us explores the perspectives of three people in Darwin. A refugee, an officer and his son. As Anahita and Jonathan fall in love, the rules about refugees get in their way. As the story goes on, the author reveals more of the characters’ back stories as to why they came to this place.
I would recommend this novel to readers 12+ because the themes and issues portrayed may be difficult for younger readers to comprehend. This is different from other books I have read because there aren’t really any chapters, it switches perspectives instead. The language is fairly simple and explains the different lifestyles very well. Definitely worth reading.
Ella, age 15, Canberra
Between Us takes the reader into the lives of three people: Ana an Iranian asylum seeker living in a Darwin detention centre, Kenny a Vietnamese-Australian who works as a guard at the detention centre and his troubled son, Jono. When Ana is allowed to attend the local high school, Kenny casually says to her to look out for his son Jono. When the two meet there is an instant connection. Despite their differences the two form the beginnings of a relationship, starting with lunchtime catch ups and even an outing at the movies. At home, the relationship between Kenny and his son are deteriorating; since Jono’s mum left and he split from his girlfriend, things have not been the same and now their relationship is fractured more than ever. To make things worse, Kenny regrets speaking with Ana about his son and when he finds out the two are seeing each other things spiral out of control.
Told from the three perspectives, some in verse, this novel is raw and emotional. It is a compelling read and fast moving. It is very contemporary referencing today's pop culture and Australian slang. By giving us three voices, the reader is able to identify with each of the characters and relate to their perspective. The tension is tight, and Atkins does not shy away from harsh realities. This is a worthy contender for the CBCA Older Readers Book of the Year for which it has been short listed.