Thirst – Lizzie Wilcock

“Karanda gazed out the window at the flat, crimson desert speeding by. The sun was setting. An arrowhead of white birds flitted across the sky. A mob of kangaroos bounded toward the distant hills (pg. 1).”

Karanda, a fourteen year old girl with abandonment and trust issues, is on her way from Darwin to Alice Springs to yet another foster home. With her is fellow foster kid Solomon, an eight year old boy with puppy dog brown eyes and blonde hair who hasn’t spoken much on their two day drive. When their car crashes (no thanks to Karanda’s attitude) and they are stranded in the harsh Australian desert they are left with a choice; stay and wait for help or traipse off into the desert and find a way to start a new life. Karanda, being the moody know-it-all of the hour, refuses to be rejected or neglected by a sixth foster family and decides she can survive on her own so sets off in the desert with her backpack and very little thought into her survival. Solomon, however, is determined to follow her and refuses to be on his own despite her best attempts at pushing him away (emotionally and physically). While both Karanda and Solomon are an unlikely pairing for a survival duo they do work well together with Solomon’s general knowledge of the Australian bush and his resourcefulness (learned from watching Bush Tucker Man on TV)  offsetting Karanda’s strong will and surprising medical knowledge (how handy). And there sets off the heart of the story: survival, friendship, and finding the strength to let others in.

While Thirst is a novel geared towards young teenagers I found it to be an interesting read – despite wanting to smack Karanda across the back of the head more than once (she’s a little moody and explosive throughout the novel). The narrative is descriptive yet simple and paints a knowledgeable picture of the Australian outback, its native plants and many perils you may face should you find yourself in a similar situation.

(First published in The Australia Times Books)

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