Michelle didn’t even like Kevin that much but when she fell pregnant there was no option but to marry him, trapping her for life in the small Victorian town she’d longed to escape. Her life was over at age seventeen. Until, propelled by a spurt of bravery and in the midst of their engagement party, Michelle found the strength to run away.
Mick knew better than to get involved in a stranger’s problems but the girl looked frozen, waiting at the petrol station before dawn, and his recent sentence meant he could read the intentions of the pair of guys in the flash car who offered her a lift. Almost despite himself, Mick found himself offering her a ride, and as they travelled north, through Australia’s landscape – virtually barren to Michelle’s eyes and filled with the richness of home to Mick’s – they got to know one another.
Published in 1993, Cross My Heart has been sitting on my too-be-read shelves through three house moves and I only got to it now because I took backlogged books away with me. It's a very Australian YA novel that could have been set nowhere else. There are loving descriptions of the land and of outback culture, and though it's set against the backdrop of the great drought, Australia's current big dry and the lack of pop culture and tech references means the novel isn't dated despite its age.
I was initially not particularly impressed with the novel, which is not particularly showy or dramatic, despite some really significant themes. But, like the landscape it describes, there are nuances and details that are missed if you don't take the time to look properly. The characters throughout are well rounded, the dialogue rings true, and there's a realistic amount of vernacular without knocking you over the head with signposts saying "we're in Australia, mate - too right!" The plot unfolds gently, and nothing stood out enough for me to note it while reading, but I ended with a mildly optimistic feeling and a little homesickness, not just for home but for the outback and rural Australia - Alex