Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield (Text Publishing, 2012)
Vikki Wakefield’s second YA book centres on Friday Brown, a seventeen year old girl who has spent her whole life moving around rural and remote Australia with her mother, Vivienne. What she knows of life, her life and her mother’s life comes from Vivienne and her stories. Friday doesn’t know why her mother ran away from home as a teenager. Even when Vivienne returns to her father’s house after she is diagnosed with cancer, there is a wall of silence between Vivienne and her father. After her mother’s death, Friday feels uncomfortable in her grandfather’s world and runs away, intent on finding her father and carving her own life.
She lands in the city and is befriended by Silence, a young runaway who cannot speak. Silence in turn introduces her to a group of runaways led by the charismatic and manipulative Arden.
In the city, Friday is on the back foot, unprepared for a life that can be precarious and dangerous. As much as she is in awe of Arden and, in her grief, needs a replacement for Vivienne, Friday knows that there is something not right about the way Arden controls and manipulates the other runaways.
It is when Arden takes them to a ghost town out in the country that Friday comes into her own and shifts the power balance away from Arden. Trouble follows and its outcome is devastating.
Friday Brown is a beautifully written story. The contrasts between rural Australia and the city are distinct and vivid. We see Friday unsure of herself in the grey of a large noisy city but it is in the country that she stands tall while the silence and vastness scares her companions.
There is a mythic quality to the story. Silence is the metaphorical and literal symbol of the invisibility of homeless children. He is not heard and, as we see in the scene where Friday and he meet, he is not seen. Amongst the runaways are other outsiders – a gay young man, an Aboriginal girl, a young sex worker. In the middle is Arden, tough, streetwise and all-knowing.
I enjoyed Friday Brown although for me the story comes into its own when the runaways move to the ghost town. This is where Vikki Wakefield’s writing excels and she is able to conjure the mystery and danger of the rural Australia. The excitement of this part is what makes the book ‘unput-downable’. I’ll definitely be hunting down Wakefield’s book, All I ever wanted.