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Review: Where You Left Us by Rhiannon Wilde
A truly exceptional young adult novel
Where You Left Us is a truly exceptional young adult novel by Australian author Rhiannon Wilde. It’s not often that you read something which fits so neatly in a genre yet pushes the boundaries at the same time, but Where You Left Us is one of those elusive magical books.
The story follows teenage sisters Cinnamon and Scarlett Prince over the course of a summer as they navigate family, friendship and romance while also trying to figure themselves out. It’s a multi-genre story with elements of gothic, mystery and romance set in an old mansion called Halcyon House by the beach.
Where You Left Us is written in an intoxicatingly poetic prose and told in dual perspective from the two sisters.
When writing from Cinnamon’s point of view, Wilde experiments with using both left- and right-aligned text to tell her side of the story. The left-aligned text represents the majority of the story, with the right-aligned text occasionally appearing to reveal Cinnamon’s more emotional or inner thoughts. Coupled with the use of the third person present tense, this allows the reader to feel the closeness and immediacy of Cinnamon’s feelings.
‘You can fall out of love with someone and still love them.’
A large source of anger, confusion and conflict for Cinnamon is her relationship with Will. How do you navigate a friendship with someone you dated?
Through Cinnamon and Will, Wilde writes a friends to lovers to friends storyline which feels so real and yet unusual in young adult fiction. While most fictional breakups are messy and horrible, Cinnamon and Will still like each other and need to figure out exactly what that means. This really interesting dynamic makes for an extremely captivating narrative.
Where Cinnamon is chaotic, Scarlett is ordered. She thinks in lists. She worries about being boring, all while she is transforming into the Sherlock character who will solve the mystery.
The mystery plot thread in the novel feels inevitable and compelling. Cinnamon and Scarlett are coming to terms with truths about their family instead of having a ‘gotcha’ moment.
‘What if I’m a disaster bi but not in a cute way?’
Another highlight is the evolving relationship between Cinnamon and her coworker Daisy Leung. While Where You Left Us is not a coming out story, it follows Cinnamon as she navigates her first relationship with a girl. The conflict and hurdles in Cinnamon and Daisy’s relationship come from a real place of teenage fear.
Where You Left Us is a classic in the making that will hopefully remain on Australian bookshelves for many years to come.
Rating: Highly recommend
Book: Where You Left Us
Author: Rhiannon Wilde
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Publication Date: 30 August 2022