Book Review: Night Beach by Kirsty Eagar

It’s Wednesday which means it is time for another super special Inky shortlist review.  This week it is all about Night Beach, Kirsty Eagar’s third novel, released in March of this year.

Abbie has three obsessions. Art. The ocean. And Kane.

But since Kane’s been back, he’s changed. There’s a darkness shadowing him that only Abbie can see. And it wants her in its world.

Kirsty Eagar has a knack for weaving intense atmospheric tales that entrance the reader and envelope their senses. Eagar is a writer in every sense of the word. She is fearless in the way in which she tackles the strong emotions, hormones and grit within the surf culture of Sydney.

Night Beach starts off like a younger sibling to Raw Blue – sun, sand and surf – and then morphs into a creature of its own, distinct from Saltwater Vampires and yet similar in its oceanic and gothic nature. But what does appear to be a tale of longing and the pursuit of art becomes something much more sinister and dark. Eagar is a writer who wields tension like a weapon; draws out interchanges like a tightrope and leaves tantalising moments of confusion hanging. Silence and mystery fill the crevasses and the reader finds themselves ensnared.

Eagar depicts teens as they are as opposed to how we might like them to be. They are flawed and flinty characters hardened by the sun and the harshness of the ocean. Feeling abandoned by her sister, her mother and her step-father she creates an understandable and unsettling obsession with Kane (her step-cousin.) Abbie’s longing for Kane is universal, the desire for the can-never-have and yet the author has sketched out Kane and Abbie well beyond the bounds of a possible romantic entanglement. Nothing is clean cut in this world, the shadows draw Abbie deeper into the darkness that Kane finds himself swallowed by. Something’s wrong…but what is the something?

While this review finds itself deeply embedded in vague territory, the slow and tense unveiling of the truth would be tarnished by a spoiler. Eagar continues to establish herself as a new literary voice in Australian YA but one with a firm hold of real, contemporary teens even in a surreal narrative. She’s a taunt writer, nothing is unnecessary, every aspect slinks the reader close to the reveal of the shadows that drift and curl with her emotive and languid word building. Her writing is beautiful even when addressing the harsh and dark aspects of life.

For previous reviews in the Inky Shortlisted series: The Fault in our StarsThe Reluctant HallelujahBZRKA Monster CallsDaughter of Smoke and BoneAct of Faith, and Queen of the Night.

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