Hi Virtually readers! I read so many books on holiday (well, 14) and this was one of them. It was rather excellent.
Title: Night Swimming
Author: Steph Bowe
Genre: Australian YA contemporary
Themes: Family, friendship, falling in love, figuring out what you want to do with your life, putting on a musical starring a goat dressed as a plant
My blurb: Kirby has lived her whole life in a boring small town. She has a best friend and a goat—what else could she need? Then comes a stranger, Iris. Kirby is forced to deal with her feeling for Iris and what that could mean for her friendship with Clancy.
This was like a cuter, quirkier Remind Me How This Ends. There’s the small-town Australia vibe, swimming in a river, characters who aren’t attending university. I really liked it. It wasn’t exactly just a romance? It was more about the specific characters.
The main character was Kirby, who I really liked. I like how she enjoyed reading, how she chose not to finish school (that’s a lot rarer in YA than it is in real life, if you ask me says the girl who finished school), how he had a pet goat (I had pet goats once), and was generally pretty cool. She also happened to like girls, and I think it was good that this fact wasn’t a complete big deal. This definitely wasn’t a coming-out story. Also yay to not having the fall-in-love-with-a-best-friend trope.
Let’s talk about Iris. I loved her so much. I really liked the way her character developed in Kirby’s eyes from stranger to friend. Also, she was a biracial Australian whose mother was from NZ and father was from India. Just like me (except I’m not Australian). I really liked her fashion sense and personality and genral quirkiness. I will admit, though, that compared to Kirby and Clancy I didn’t feel like she underwent much character development? She was slightly flat as a character. As other people have said, this book represents a lot of divers perspectives—characters from different ethnicities, LGBTQ+ identities, mental illness and single parent families (does this classify as diverse?)
I also really liked Night Swimming’s focus on family. Kirby is really devoted to her grandfather, who has dementia, and she has to deal with the existence of her father and understanding that her mother loves her, even if she shows love in a way Kirby can’t always understand.
Last of all, this book was absurdly quirky. Stanley is a hilarious goat (what goat isn’t) (side note: I have a stuffed sheep called Stanley Shunpike Sheep); Kirby, Iris and Clancy put on a musical for a rather unenthused audience, there are crop circles with a mysterious creator, rain storms, Indian and Chinese food, cats, goat soap (I wish there was more about it. Like, what actually is it and how is it made?), a house like the Burrow, a lot of love for mixed-lolly packs, and (of course) night swimming.
Overall, this was a glorious and adorable book that I thouroughly enjoyed.