I wasn’t around in the 80s, my parents are still going strong after 34 years of marriage, and I don’t like baked beans. While I found little in common with the life of this narrator, 12-year-old Harper Richardson makes What a Way to Go an easy read, and excellent debut for Julia Forster.
Harper’s mum gets her, the house, and hundreds of cans of baked beans; her dad retains a mouldering cottage in the Midlands. Harper is torn between her parents, trying to fix everyone else’s problems, rather than being her quirky 12-year-old self. That said, she seems to have more sense than the rest of the adult characters, and may even be best-placed to fix these problems. Just a warning – I wouldn’t suggest buying this for a teenager whose parents have divorced recently unless the matter has sunk in well.
The novel walks a thin line between its marketed genre of YA and adult literature. Forster deals with some heavy topics that even the most mature YA reader may find confronting, and some of the 80s references might go over some readers’ heads.
I’m not a huge fiction reader, but I found What a Way to Go a nice break from my usual non-fiction books. Forster has crafted a funny and quirky narrator from Harper, and I’m sure this novel will please both younger and older readers.
Reviewed by Kimaya McIntosh
What a Way to Go
by Julia Foster
Published by Atlantic Books