Pole-vaulting fiction

My fifteen year old god-daughter, Roxane, is an exacting reader. She knows precisely what she likes, and more importantly, what she doesn’t like. Tomorrow, I’ll be posting her a copy of Penni Russon’s latest novel ‘The Indigo Girls’ and I’m confident that she’ll love it. Roxane has always most enjoyed books about real girls dealing with real life. ‘The Indigo Girls’ gives the reader a window into a pivotal week in the lives of two Australian teenage girls. Zara and Tilly’s friendship is tested during a summer holiday and their understandings of their strengths and weaknesses transformed. It’s a deceptively simple story but the moods and the turning points in the lives of Zara and Tilly are deftly captured in Russons’ evocative prose.

‘The Indigo Girls’ is one of the first of a new series that Allen & Unwin are publishing in conjunction with Girlfriend magazine. It remains to be seen whether all the titles will succeed as well as this one. Judging from a quick glance at one of the others, there will probably be some variation in the quality across the series. At a guess, I’d say each title is no more than 35,000 words in length, more novellas than novels. I think the novella is a form that few writers do really well. If short stories are a sprint, and novels are marathons, then what does that make a novella? I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re probably on a par with pole-vaulting – breath-taking when they work but mortifying when you fall short of the bar. I was pleased that ‘The Indigo Girls’ made the leap.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Every adult was once a child and the child inside them never completely disappears.”

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