Title: Becoming Aurora
Author: Elizabeth Kasmer
Published: September 19th 2016
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Australian
Rating: 4 stars
Tonight we are wolves. Our pack moves as one, past empty shop fronts and faded billboards.
Sixteen-year-old Rory is at a crossroads in her life. While her gang plans its next move in a racially motivated turf war, Rory is sentenced to spend her summer at an aged care facility. She’s proud of taking the rap for a crime her gang committed and reading to a feisty old boxing champion isn’t going to change that.
But what happens when Rory’s path intersects with migrant boxer Essam’s and she becomes the victim, not the perpetrator? Can she find the courage to face her past and become the girl her dad called Aurora?
Becoming Aurora by Elizabeth Kasmer, is a coming of age book that explores a young Australian girl’s experiences in a small town. It is a refined piece of writing for a debut novel, offering the reader a reflection on issues current to Australian society and the struggles faced by our younger generation.
Rory is the central character of Elizabeth Kasmer’s contemporary young adult novel, Becoming Aurora. Rory is a typical sixteen year old girl, living in an everyday Australian small town. She longs to fit in with the ‘in crowd’ in her local community. The problem is, this in crowd is both racist and destructive. As a result, Rory ends up taking the wrap for a racist attack on a local business owned by migrants. For her crime, Rory is sentenced to community service. It is this stint in a local nursing home that leads her to meet an elderly man named Jack. At their first meeting, Jack appears like a cantankerous old man, however, slowly he lets his guard down. What results is an unlikely friendship between the two. Rory’s friendship with Jack, who was once a boxer, leads her to seek out boxing lessons. These come in the form of a local migrant. In the end, these two people play an important role in shaping Rory’s life for the better.
I found Becoming Aurora a short but impactful story. Although this book is predominately aimed at a young adult audience, I enjoyed as an adult reader. I can see why this book was chosen as the recipient of the Queensland Literary Awards Best Emerging Author prize. I found Kasmer’s style of writing contemplative, as well as suitably engaging.
Becoming Aurora is essentially a book that is about reconciling with the past. It also teaches the reader that it is possible to right past wrongs. It is a subtle story of forgiveness and unlikely friendships. Despite its small scale, Becoming Aurora tackles some big issues. These range from ageing, cultural identity, racism and juvenile crime, all of which are handled in a sensitive manner.
What stood out for me in reading this book is the main character of Rory. She is the gel that holds this book together. There is no question that Rory is a strong force. Kasmer has sculpted the character of Rory in such a way that she has her fair share of common teen issues. This makes her character more realistic, as well as relatable, to the book’s target audience. I appreciated the meaningful transformation the character of Rory went through. The journey Rory makes to eventually recognise that her thoughts were toxic to her personal growth was enlightening.
Becoming Aurora is a book that has a well drawn setting, which is a standout feature of the novel. The main locale, an everyday local Australian small town, is described in a simple way that many readers will easily be able to identify with it. Kasmer uses the fictional small town in the novel, as a representation of the wider politics and issues that are prevalent in any Australian town, not just Rory’s.
Becoming Aurora is a succinctly written book that engaged me as an adult reader but it will be sure to resonate with the younger adult audience. I loved the subtle and positive messages intertwined in this book. These range from atonement for past mistakes, as well as the focus on appreciating the older generation and taking the time to look beyond one’s culture.
The meaningful human connections that develop in this novel, as well the topical narrative, makes Becoming Aurora a recommended young adult novel.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via a Goodreads giveaway.