Gemma's older brother Billy made her a promise that he would ensure she looked fabulous for her first school formal. But his circumstances change dramatically and Billy's promise becomes the least of the family's concerns.
There are two things you need to know about me. The first is that I remember life by what I was wearing. The second is that I think too much.
It's the early 1990s and all Gemma can think about is looking perfect for her first school formal. Gemma's brother Billy - New York's up and coming hair and make-up artist - has made her the ultimate promise: he's returning home especially to 'create magic' on her and two friends for their end-of-year formal. Gemma's best friend, Andrea, is convinced it'll be their moment to shine; Gemma hopes it's the night Ralph will finally notice her.
But when Billy arrives home from New York, Gemma's life becomes complicated. Her family's been keeping secrets; friendships are forged and broken; and suddenly the length of her formal dress is the least of her worries.
Set in a time of uncertainty and fear, The Things We Promise is a beautifully told novel that sings with emotion, humour and heartbreak.
Review by Olivia Crowley
It’s not that often that you start a book at 8pm and don’t close it until the last page. But J.C. Burke’s The Things We Promise did exactly that for me.
The Things We Promise elicited tears, laughter, and a chance to reflect on how far the Australian suburbs have come in the past twenty years. The book is set in the early 90s when the HIV/AIDS epidemic had ‘the suburbs’ fear the disease and homosexuality; when paranoia ran rampant. Gemma, a teenager with an energetic and remarkable older brother living the high-life in America with his partner, discovers secrets that her mum and family have been keeping from her. Secrets that are painful. Secrets that when revealed will invoke the judgement of others.
For anyone who experienced first-hand the heartbreak of HIV/AIDS in the 90s, or for anyone who still experiences it today, this book will tug at your heartstrings. It’ll make you laugh. It’ll make you cry.
For parents or teachers wanting to introduce the story of the epidemic in a compassionate manner to the teens of today, The Things We Promise is a fantastic introduction. It’s touching, engaging and doesn’t shy away from some of the saddest and most painful parts of a devastating history. Also, as the book is intertwined and laced with teenage problems that are still so relevant today, teens will find it highly relatable. This is a book I highly recommend.
About the Author
J.C. Burke has published a number of acclaimed books for teenagers and young adults, including CBCA Notable Books White Lies and The Red Cardigan, Aurealis Awards finalist Nine Letters Long, The Story of Tom Brennan, Faking Sweet, Starfish Sisters, Ocean Pearl, Pig Boy and Pretty Girl. The Story of Tom Brennan won the 2006 CBCA Book of the Year, Older Readers and the 2006 Australian Family Therapists Award for Children's Literature and it is currently on the NSW HSC syllabus list. Pig Boy won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Fiction in 2012.
Audience: Teenager / Young Adult
For Ages: 15 - 18 years old
Number Of Pages: 384
Published: 1st March 2017
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.8