The Push is a Young Adult novel set in 1957, focusing on a young Sydney girl Erica who gets involved with the now famous, or infamous Libertarian group The Push. Erica is in a dead end office job and seeing a boring coworker who her mother is keen for her to marry. Erica lives in Glebe, a solidly working class area back then with a mother who is bitter at being left alone to raise her children after Erica’s father died in the war.
There’s missing older sister Peggy, who is gradually revealed, and for me, this was the strongest element of the book. Peggy has obviously had something awful happen that has caused her mother to drive her out and keep her away from her younger sister. Erica’s meeting with The Push characters is at first slow moving and not very involving. She loses her virginity to one member, and quickly realises that he won’t make any commitment to her, because the Libertarians don’t believe in that sort of thing.
The story does pick up pace when Erica helps out a Push girl who is pregnant and is trying to sort out what to do about it. But the early scenes seem a bit lacking in emotion and the dialogue of the push values feels forced. There’s also some clunky attempts to show that we are in 1957, such as a suitcase that is described in great detail, the only purpose of which appears to be to inject some period detail. The descriptions of Erica’s mother doing the washing with the copper are more convincing.
The ending is also upbeat and is left open-ended and feels right, something I’m working hard to master in my story also.
Its a solid story but I’ve learned from it to focus on the relationships that matter most and in Young Adult stories, I think that really means family. And to go easy on the period detail and only to include it where it fits.