I must say I found this book very interesting. In fact as I read the first couple of pages I kept wondering where the story was going. I guess what I found most interesting was that it is written in the first person, and gives a magnificent insight into the thoughts and life of a 17 year old boy, Hamish, who is in his final year at High School. Hamish lives on a poor cabbage farm with his Mum and Dad in a rural sea side town.
To capture how a young boy feels when he thinks himself a nerd and only has one friend (Martin, from a wealthy family, and addicted to playing video games) gives an amazing awareness of how Hamish’s life is changed when he suddenly gains two new friends.
We join the story when the school and the final year students are informed of the death of the most popular boy at school. He was School Captain and drove his car into a tree to avoid a dog, and save the passenger, his girlfriend – according to Hamish the most beautiful girl in the school.
The death didn’t directly affect Hamish. Up until then he and his mate Martin, were subjected to bullying. Hamish was even one of those unlucky boys who regularly had his head put down the toilet while the water was flushed.
As if by design Hamish becomes involved with two friends of the deceased. Suddenly he gains confidence, starts to wag school, and even gets a girlfriend.
This book made it easy to feel for Hamish. His school life was pretty dull. He worked hard with his HSC studies, and got reasonable marks. But it is how Hamish and his new friends cope with grieving and growing up that makes this book fascinating. None of them have had an easy life, and it makes one realise how difficult it is for teenagers growing up in this day and age.
Australian author Meg Gatland-Veness is a school teacher working as a Drama teacher on the Central Coast of New South Wales. This of course has given her perceptions into teenagers and how their lives are affected by expectations and how small problems to adults can be huge concerns for a teenager.
I can recommend ‘I had such Friends’, with the sub-title ‘What if the beginning is the end?’. But here is a warning. Some people might find it a little confronting, as several descriptions of actions that take place are rather graphic. For me that made the story more plausible and realistic but some readers could be disturbed by a teenager’s portrayal of what affects them.
Title: I had such friends – What if the beginning is the end?
Author: Meg Gatland-Veness
Publisher: Pantera Press
ISBN: 978 1 – 925700-01-5 (paperback)