Walking on Trampolines is a coming-of-age novel by author Frances Whiting, set in the 1970s through roughly the early 90s. Whiting has done an amazing job of portraying not only the characters, but also the setting (Australia) and the period.
Walking on Trampolines is the story of Tallulah de Longland and her best friend, Annabelle Andrews. Tallulah, who goes by Lulu, is your average young girl – she attends an all-girl Catholic school, has the usual friends, and two little brothers. But as we read, we learn that her family isn’t really typical, though they are more typical than Annabelle’s.
Annabelle is another story. Where Lulu is a rather likeable character, Annabelle is not so much. Yet there’s something about Annabelle that draws you in. If you’ve ever known an Annabelle, you’ll recognize her in these pages. Annabelle is the kind of friend who sucks you in and makes you hers, and even as you realize that she’s being overly possessive and suffocating you, you can’t break away because there’s just something about her. She’s not very nice, not very inviting and her attitude often leaves a lot to be desired, yet she still has a certain charisma that you can’t ignore.
Their friendship is solid until Josh comes onto the scene. Josh is cute, he’s fun, and he’s into Lulu from the moment he meets her. But as we watch the story unfold, we see all the little cracks forming in all of these relationships. We see the crumbling of Josh and Lulu, of Annabelle and Lulu, of Annabelle and her parents, Lulu and her parents, Annabelle and Lulu’s parents, and Lulu and Annabelle’s parents. We see what’s coming long before it happens, and for me, I found myself wanting to warn the characters of what was ahead of them. As an adult, who’s already been through the teenage angst depicted in the book, I wanted to warn them off, tell them how to change it. But I couldn’t, and just had to watch the drama unfold – much as I will one day have to do with my own children.
As the blurb for the book says, Lulu is presented with the opportunity to do something that just might be unforgivable. And that’s what makes this story as much about forgiveness as anything else – what Lulu does is bad, but she’s not the only guilty one in the book. Each character has their own “unforgivable” act. They all have their secrets, their sins that make them human. And for as much as you might find their secrets and sins horrible, you still can’t help but love the characters.
Whiting did an amazing job creating full, well-rounded characters that you like despite the reasons she gives you to dislike them. She includes enough of the Australian setting and other things Australian to make you fully aware of where the book takes place and to give you a good sense of place without beating you over the head with it. It’s enough to give the beauty of the time and place without it overwhelming the rest of the story. She balanced story, characters, setting, and time period perfectly.
I enjoyed this book even more than I really expected to, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good read that will tug at your emotions and probably even make you cry. I know it made me cry more than once.
As someone with friends from my own school days, reading about these characters growing up together and then moving into adulthood together was like revisiting my own school days in many ways. I didn’t attend a religious or an all-girls school, but there was much that reminded me of my childhood friends. I was reminded of my own Annabelle, too, and was able to view that friendship a little differently than I had before, because of the insights that this book gave me.
It took Frances Whiting seven years to write Walking on Trampolines, her first novel after writing a weekly column for a newspaper for twenty years. I would say this was seven years well spent. Had I not read that this was her first novel, I never would have guessed that. Whiting did an amazing job, and I am looking forward to reading her next book – whenever that may come.
Walking on Trampolines will be released on February 3, 2015, and you can pick it up here:
*I did receive a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.