Frankie and Joely are best friends. They love each other like no one else can. But when a summer break in the country brings fresh distractions, simmering jealousies and festering secrets, can their friendship survive?
It’s the holidays and, together, Frankie and Joely board a train and escape the city and their mums for a week of freedom. But when Joely introduces Frankie to her country cousins, Thommo and Mack, it soon becomes clear that something other than the heat is getting under their skin. As the temperature rises and the annual New Years’ Eve party looms closer, local boy Rory stirs things up even more and secrets start to blister. Suddenly the girls’ summer getaway is not panning out how either of them imagined. Will they still be ‘Frankie and Joely’ by the end of their holiday?
I love novels about female friendship and rural Australia and hot summers, and Frankie and Joely has all of these things. The stifling heat and the dusty middle-of-nowhere town are depicted beautifully. The story is told using third-person omniscient - predominantly from the perspectives of Frankie and Joely, but also offering Mack's, Thommo's and Rory's viewpoints. This is a style of narration that is really difficult to get right, and at times, as POV changed from paragraph to paragraph, I felt at a remove from the characters. The stark differences in how Frankie and Joely view each other and themselves make their perspectives the most compelling - had the story instead been told by only one or the other, so much of the exploration of their friendship would be missing, and it wouldn't be as rich or as nuanced a story. I am always fascinated with the awful characters in stories, so more of Rory's point of view and his particular background and motivations would have been terrific; similarly, Mack and Thommo aren't POV characters for particularly much of the story, and I feel they could've contributed more.
Joely's aunt and uncle are the most sympathetic characters of the novel - there's a scene where the aunt makes scones with Joely which is one of the loveliest in the novel (and made me really want to make and eat scones. Which I might do after I finish writing this). Frankie's desire to be accepted, and her love and care for her off-the-rails mum makes her far more likeable than Joely, whose childishness is at times grating. That said, they are fifteen-year-old characters and, knowing actual fifteen-year-olds (and having been fifteen myself), they're very realistically depicted. I think the pettiness and melodramas and general complexities of intense teenage friendship are well-drawn. The girls communicate poorly and behave like idiots and treat each other badly, despite how important the friendship is to both of them, because they're both dealing with their own issues: trying to deal with family and boy dramas and attempting to work out who they are and who they want to be.
It's an easy, enjoyable contemporary Aussie YA read, which I think will appeal most to younger teenaged readers who can identify with Frankie and Joely and the intensities and difficulties of their friendship. If you liked Kate Gordon's Writing Clementine, I reckon you'll like this one, too (and vice versa).
Frankie and Joely on the publisher's website