Title: All That Impossible Space
Author: Anna Morgan
Published: June 2019
Readership: Young Adult #loveozya
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
I received a copy of All That Impossible Space from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Amelia Westlake meets My Favorite Murder in this debut from a terrific new voice in Australian YA. Combines a realistic story about high school drama and toxic friendship with true crime – the endlessly fascinating Somerton Man or Taman Shud mystery.
15-year-old Lara Laylor feels like supporting character in her own life. She’s Ashley’s best friend, she’s Hannah’s sister-she’s never just Lara.
When new history teacher Mr. Grant gives her an unusual assignment: investigating the mystery of the Somerton Man. Found dead in on an Adelaide beach in 1948, a half-smoked cigarette still in his mouth and the labels cut out of his clothes, the Somerton Man has intrigued people for years. Was he a spy? A criminal? Year 10 has plenty of mysteries of its own: boys, drama queen friends, and enigmatic new students. When they seem just as unsolvable as a 60-year-old cold case, Lara finds herself spending more and more time on the assignment. But Mr Grant himself may be the biggest mystery of all…
Interspersed with fictionalised snapshots of the Somerton Man investigation, ALL THAT IMPOSSIBLE SPACE is a coming of age novel exploring toxic friendships and the balance of power between teacher and student, perfect for fans of Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood.
If you’re at all familiar with my reviews you know I love going into books blind, and when I signed up for the blog tour for All That Impossible Space I had only read a very brief overview of the book and thought it sounded like a great, easy #loveozya book. What I go was all of that, plus a fascinating mystery on multiple levels and it was great.
Lara Laylor is 15 and living in her older sister’s shadow at home and at school, and under the thumb of her ‘best friend,’ Ashley. In what should have been a breezy Year 10, she’s found herself roped into the school musical (with the local boys school), a friendship triangle with implications and a historical mystery that fascinates her, but remains unsolved. Her life becomes complicated, in ways that it can only become as a teenager, and Lara quickly finds herself becoming inundated with trying to unravel the mysteries that surround her.
There were a lot of things happening in this book that I didn’t suspect when beginning it, along with many common elements seen in contemporary YA. Lara, her friends, and her high school life are quite authentically represented (to the point I was reliving some of my girls high school memories throughout this book). Lara was at times endearing, and at other points insufferable, which fits her 15-year-old character that made her feel more real, rather than as a teenager who suddenly had all the answers. Instead, it takes her a long time to realise many different things.
For me it highlighted really strongly the connections students make with their school and their teachers, but also how unknowable schools and teachers are to teenagers. Lara is thrilled to have Mr. Grant as her new history teacher and is deeply enthralled with his approach to teaching history through his assignment to unravel unsolved mysteries. She’s so enamoured with him that we, the reader, begin to realise that even Grant himself is a mystery and one that might be deeply unsettling, but she doesn’t come to the same realisation which adds a complicated layer to the storytelling.
Lara’s research into the mystery of the Somerton Man, her assigned unsolved mystery, is interwoven throughout the narrative and was, for me, and interesting inclusion. I’m not one for true crime so I hadn’t really heard anything about it, so it was interesting to see author Anna Morgan’s take on it for the purpose of her overarching narrative. It’s easy to see why Lara becomes so focused on solving it.
Then there are the intricate relationships between the teenager characters. Lara and Ashley, who’ve been friends for years, but things are starting to fray at the edges as Ashley takes (and expects to continue to take) centre stage in their friendship, essentially freezing Lara out when she does something out of character. Lara, herself, seems to be beginning to understand the dynamic and to have issues with it, but isn’t able to assert herself until much later after many miscommunications with other people who genuinely like her for who she is. It’s such a common situation for young teens who are trying to work out who their close peer groups are that it was at times uncomfortable even in its honesty.
Overall I was very impressed with Anna Morgan’s debut novel and I look forward to seeing what she comes out with next.
About the Author
Anna was born in Sydney, but spent most of her childhood surrounded by mountains in Nepal and Tibet while her parents were part of an international community of health professionals. Navigating this cross-cultural life made her a curious observer of people, although most of her time was spent reading Enid Blyton and dreaming of going to boarding school. This did not cushion the shock of shifting from home-school in Tibet to an all-girls high school in Melbourne when her family returned to Australia. All That Impossible Space explores some of the intense and convoluted friendships that thrive in this setting. Anna completed a MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University in 2015, and now lives in Melbourne with her husband. She works as a bookseller.