“And I want to punch him, right there in his perfect pretty face, and give him some reason to remember I’m still here.”

Everything is Changed by Nova Weetman (UQP, 2016) is on the Notables for the CBCA Book of The Year Older Readers 2017. The story is amazing, not least because it’s told backwards. While I thought I knew exactly what was coming, I didn’t and surprises kept jumping out from the page.

“I just wish he’d stay and be frightened with me instead of leaving me here in the borough alone.”

Jake and Alex did something terrible and the police are questioning them. We don’t know what happened that night, but it soon becomes apparent a man died and the guilt is not shared equally between the boys. Jake wants to tell the police but Alex wants to forget and get back to his new school and girlfriend.

“I wonder where my friend has gone. He’s nowhere to be found in this place.”

The seemingly simple premise encompasses so much more. What was the crime – murder, manslaughter, an awful accident? Why does Jake feel more remorse, was it all down to him? And could they had done something to avert it all. Or as Jake’s favourite teacher says,

“You always have to allow for chance.”

As the story unravels, the pain becomes acute – the boys’ emotions on display. And this really is the point, not so much the twists and turns the story takes, but the heart wrenching breakdown of their friendship, and the lives they knew, all the while in reverse.

The reverse timeline is so cleverly done. As the awful moment approaches, I felt worse and worse, already knowing exactly how bad things were, and that there was no hope for Alex or Jake, or the man who died. While knowing all this, I still wanted more and couldn’t stop reading their pain.

“She smiles and for the moment I’ve saved her from knowing just how bad I really am.”

When Alex says, “Let’s get into trouble.” The foreshadowing, that isn’t foreshadowing at all, broke me. They will never escape from where they don’t want to be.

“This is a freeway. A major road that does little more than get people very fast out of where they don’t want to be.”

One of these days I might try a book which doesn’t wend loss and grief through exceptional word craft, not so much when I read Everything is Changed. Somehow I managed to read Bro and We Come Apart around the same time. Each book is as heart wrenching as the next, but all three have a slightly different take on what happens when violence collides with boys who don’t consider the consequences of their anger and/or stupidity. The latter two combine racism and racial violence in the mix. Very different beginnings, but leading to tragedy and death as the action spirals out of control.

Everything is Changed by Nova Weetman (UQP, 2016)

Bro by Helen Chebatte (Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016)

We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan (Bloomsbury, 2017)

Bro by Helen Chebatte