REVIEW: True Blue by Sasha Wasley

In brief: The second book in the Paterson Girls series focuses on Free, an artist, as she negotiates her first job teaching art to teenagers and falling in love.

The good: Free really grew on me as a character.

The not-so-good: Beth, you need redemption from your (presumably well-meaning) bossiness.

Why I chose it: Loved Dear Banjo – thank you to Penguin for the copy and the quote!

Year: 2018

Pages: 374

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)

Setting: Kimberley region of Western Australia

Rating: 10 out of 10

Sasha Wasley is fast becoming one of my go-to authors for stories that I’ll love. Last year, I loved Dear Banjo, a story of loss, land and ultimately love. True Blue continues on with the same setting, the fictional town of Mount Clair in the Kimberley region (far north) of Western Australia. This time, the main character is the sister of Willow Paterson, Freya (Free).

To be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Free in Dear Banjo. She came across as flighty and superficial in contrast to her sisters, who were a lot more practical and grounded. Sasha Wasley has taken Free and made her into a thoughtful, sensitive heroine who has her own morals and beliefs. If they just happen to be a bit different to the other Paterson girls, so be it. I was really proud as a reader to see Free grow in this novel to someone inspiring who gains more confidence in herself. The story is set as Free gets a job as a resident artist at the local high school to help the students design and build a public artwork in town. Free is nervous and eager to do her best in contrast to the other artist Aidan. He’s cocky and not particularly interested, perhaps due to the rumour that his mother (a business magnate whose company is building a diversion dam on the local river) pulled strings to get him the job. Free is innocent, willing to believe the best in Aidan. But when she rebuffs his advances, he’s out to be as snide as possible. Free is a sensitive soul, and this causes her a lot of grief. But on the plus side, she lives next door to Finn Kelly, a local policeman who she is very interested in. Finn is trying to keep her at a safe friend’s distance and Free is confused as to why. Is it their different ideologies as she tries to save the local river? Or is it something simpler?

The more I read, the more endearing Free became to me. I’m not sure what it is about her but she invites confidence and positivity into all her interactions. It’s not Pollyanna like, but a genuine interest in other people. I found Free’s passion to help her students really lovely to read, especially in encouraging quiet student Tia to come out of her shell. I think this also helped with Free’s self-confidence too. On reading this book, I found that I had misjudged Free previously. She feels inferior to her sisters, as she knows she is different to them and the odd one out in the family. Once I understood that, it was easy to love her as a character. She’s different, sure, but that isn’t a bad thing. Being able to write all the layers of these characters and show them to the reader is a great skill of Sasha Wasley’s. The more I think about her characters, the more impressed I am with their complexity and that they are memorable. Not an easy thing to achieve, especially with rapid (and rabid!) readers like myself.

The other part of Sasha Wasley’s writing that stands out are the feelings. She conveys emotion so well that the reader experiences part of what the character is. I grinned along with Free when she was offered work by Olly and shared in her delight when her home studio was crafted. This kind of writing puts a sparkle in your day. Thank you Sasha! I also liked that Finn was more than eye candy and a policeman. Revealing his interests outside of work and sharing his family situation brought him out as a highly developed character.

I’m eagerly awaiting the story of Beth now – the oldest sister who appears a bit bossy and overbearing. I bet I’ll be eating my words once I read her story!

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