Holier Than Thou embodies everything that I love about Australian YA fiction; it is startling real, honest and utterly relatable. The people and places are palpable and the emotions evoked are breathtakingly raw. Laura Buzo has once again demonstrated her talent in writing insightful and complex characters, while also weaving an gripping and unforgettable story.
Gathering my thoughts about this novel has been hard, partly because I devoured it all in one night - breathlessly finishing it off at 2am in the morning and partly because I feel like I need to re-read it to savour the depth and complexity of the story. While I enjoy reading YA about the dramas of high school I really love it when I come across a story that is for the older YA readers and I wish that there were more books out there that write about characters in this age bracket.
Holier Than Thou is a story that starts not with a whimper, but with a bang as we are introduced to Holly, a 24 year old social worker, who discovers something shocking when visiting a patient. From that point on the story is beautiful study of characters, flawlessly interweaving moments from Holly's past - her father's battle with cancer in High-School, her friendship with Liam - a boy who she was once close with but has now disappeared from her life, and her current relationship with her friends from high-school who are slowly drifting apart. There were some lighter moments in the novel, and in particular I loved the banter between Holly and her dread-locked co-worker, Nicholarse- as she so fondly calls him.
This is not a light read, nor does it offer any sort of happy-all strings-tied-up kind of ending. The ending was left WIDE open, something which normally annoys me because I'm the Queen of Happily-Ever-Afters and unambiguous endings. However in this instance I can't but help but agree with how the novel played out as it representative of the characters in this book and where they are at this stage of their lives. Nobody has everything sorted at this age - or at least that's what I keep on telling myself - and the uncertainty is what makes the novel that much more realistic and bittersweet. Holier Than Thou is a standout read that tackles grief, friendship, work, love, family and the joys of growing up and surviving in the 'real world'.