I have closely followed Nova Weetman’s writing for children and young adults since her 2014 YA debut The Haunting of Lily Frost and was on the Aurealis judging panel when it was shortlisted. I reviewed Nova’s second YA novel Frankie and Joely for the Weekend Australian, as well as Everything Is Changed and her first novel about Clem, The Secrets We Keep.
Here Nova has kindly written about her third and final middle grade novel about the unforgettable Clem, The Edge of Thirteen (UQP). It is bittersweet to experience life with Clem for the last time.
NOVA WEETMAN on THE EDGE OF THIRTEEN
When I was in grade 6, Mum wanted to buy me a bra. I responded by wearing a singlet which I’d pull down as tight as I could and tuck into my undies. I did anything I could to flatten my chest as much as possible. I didn’t want to have breasts. None of my friends did and I was mortified that Mum was so blasé about the whole thing. I remember reading Judy Blume over and over again to try and work out how I should feel about my body changing. Reading about it felt safe. It felt like I could dive into a secret world without anyone knowing and find answers.
I’ve never forgotten how books saved me when I was that age. How they were my company when I was lonely, my friend when things went a bit awry at school, and how they helped explain all those tricky feelings. I guess really that’s the reason I write what I write now. Books about friendships and identity. Books about puberty and battling with your parents. Basically, I write about all the things that I wanted in a book.
With The Edge of Thirteen, I knew I wanted to write a story about the character Clem growing up. I’d already written two earlier books about her, The Secrets We Keep and The Secrets We Share, and this was the last time I’d visit her world. My son started high school this year and my daughter is in year 11, and much of the world that Clem finds in The Edge of Thirteen can be found in my children’s high school. So much so, that the librarians recognised their library in the book and claimed it proudly.
I wanted The Edge of Thirteen to be about growing up and not quite fitting in. Like many of us, Clem isn’t growing at the same rate as her friends and it’s awkward and messy. I wanted to tap into social media, first crushes, first bras, and the tricky point of separation that you have from your parents, where you no longer want to be seen with them publicly. This book was my chance to farewell Clem as she entered the world of teenager-dom. As she stepped off into all the things that young adult books explore and left the world of middle grade behind. I felt quite torn knowing that I wouldn’t write about Clem again, because she’s been with us, this shadowy character in our family for years now. But it’s time I let her go.