Is it conceivable to see a version of your 15-year-old self mirrored in the actions and words of two girls with whom you share no commonalities, save for your gender?
Jack Ellis, author of The Best Feeling of All, has succeeded in offering a tale of two suburban teenaged girls, documenting a decade in their lives. Mols and Jaz are introduced as best friends, inseparable, and owners of an unapologetic lexicon.
In the opening pages, the girls wander blindly through stormwater drains, counting their steps in the dark. Known as Nirvana, their secret hangout serves as a powerful metaphor that is carried throughout the book: any journey worth beginning involves a level of risk.
The cover is littered with illustrated hints at spoilers like cocktails, travel, lingerie, babies, heartbreak and condoms — standard inclusions for a novel documenting the years spent transitioning from adolescence to adulthood. For all the predictability of heartbreak, new beginnings and impossible choices, comes the pressing question of what actually constitutes ‘the best feeling of all?
As the reader follows the girls through the three stages of Adolescence, Nineteen and Adulthood, Ellis entrusts us to fill in the missing pieces for ourselves. Always hinting, but never revealing the complete picture, he has shown a level of restraint and an ardent respect for his readers that is too often ignored, particularly for the young adult market. This respect extends to the way he so convincingly portrays the lead characters throughout, the dialogue being a highlight. Never forced or contrived, it gives the reader permission to view the girls in their rawest, most vulnerable states.
It is an effortless read. The characters and their world are authentic and Sydney’s Northern Beaches stars as the enviable playground in which the girls’ trials and tribulations are played out.
Ellis has captured the intensity and enormity of life for two young women who are constantly chasing the best feeling, only to realise that it never evaded them in the first place. It had been there all along.
Rachel Freeman is a Freelance Writer and Teacher from Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Follow her on twitter @RachelFreeman86