Book Title: Clancy of the Undertow
Author: Christopher Currie
Genre(s)/Categories: Young Adult Fiction, Queer Fiction, Coming of Age story
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.92
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Brief Synopsis: “In a dead-end town like Barwen a girl has only got to be a little different to feel like a freak. And Clancy, a typical sixteen-year-old misfit with a moderately dysfunctional family, a genuine interest in Nature Club and a major crush on the local hot girl, is packing a capital F.” (pulled from Goodreads page)
“We laugh at this, knowing it means we’re really alike. Just two modern ladies bonding over debilitating intimacy and trust issues.”
“It’s not that my room is dirty, or particularly messy, it’s just all me. Too much me, too much at once.”
“‘You know,’ says Nancy, ‘how some people seem to just have it all together? Like, they’re just born with all the answers.’ ‘I hate those people.’ ‘They’re the worst. The rest of us, like, we’re just born with the questions.'”
“My former friends became all too quickly exactly the type of people I liked the least. It wasn’t their shallowness or selfishness exactly, nor their vanity and desperation. It was their acceptance that there was only allowed to be a single type of person, and any variation was something to fear or hate.”
I really enjoyed this book! A great coming of age story about a queer teenage girl growing up in rural Australia and dealing with all of the normal parts of growing up – family issues, feeling like you don’t belong, town bullies, trying to make real friends, and having a crush on someone who seems completely unattainable.
As you can probably tell from the quotes I included above, I identify with Clancy a lot. I, too, am an awkward person who has difficulty feeling sincere or comforting those I care about. I, too, have crushes on people who are completely unattainable and who I have zero chance with. And I definitely feel like I’m not fully a part of any group. My identities are all ones that are outside the main group (even when it isn’t a mainstream group) – part-Native and part-White, attracted to both boys and girls (not straight and not lesbian either), and so many other things that are too complicated to explain. I think that is one of the reasons why I enjoy reading YA novels so much – there are still parts of me that feel like I will never feel like a real adult. That I will always be that awkward girl who can’t quite get it together.And I’m starting to be okay with that, but it’s definitely hard. Especially when everyone else around us seems to be living such great, adult lives. I definitely have Clancy moments where I’m watching everyone else and wondering how it is so easy for them. I think as you get older you realize that no one fully has it together and that everyone has things they are going through that most people don’t see. This is definitely something that Clancy learns in this novel and that is a very real part of growing up.
I LOVE stories with complicated, real families. I really do. So many young adult books, and other books as well, completely ignore the characters’ families or relegate them to the role of a nagging parent who doesn’t care or understand what their children are going through. Yes, there are some awful parents and families out there. But most families are neither perfect nor completely awful – most are somewhere in between. I really enjoyed reading about Clancy’s crazy family – her cute and video-game obsessed younger brother, her loving and jerkish older brother who is obsessed with conspiracy theories and her parents who ignore their kids a little too much because they are going through some difficult things themselves. Currie perfectly captured the relationship between teen and parent: the anger at your parents for not understanding you (and embarrassing you a lot of the time); the guilt over saying something a little too mean to your mom but not knowing how to (or not wanting to) apologize; the guilt you feel when you glimpse how very hard and adult your parents’ experiences are; how very disconcerting it is when you have to switch roles and comfort/take care of your parent; and how you slowly begin to see your parents as independent people with thoughts and feelings of their own. Since a lot of the story revolved around an accident that Clancy’s father was involved in, we get to see a lot of these realizations and interactions between Clancy and her parents.
Clancy’s brother, Angus, is one of my favorite characters in this book. His relationship with Clancy felt so real and familiar, a lot like my relationship with my older brother (especially if I had come out at a younger age – *slight spoiler* seriously that “knee deep in vag” joke was not only hilarious but also felt like something my brother would have said to me when we were younger). They bicker and make fun of each other, but they love each other and support each other when it matters most. It was great to have a brother-sister relationship represented where the brother was so supportive of his lesbian sister and who made jokes just as he would have if his sister had a crush on some random guy. I also really liked Clancy’s friends Reeve and Nancy. Great relationships in this book!
I don’t want to say much else because I’ll end up spoiling some aspects of the book but trust me – you should read this one!
To wrap up this post – here is my rating of this book on my handy dandy “Queer Stories Rating Scale”:
Queer Stories Rating Scale:
Angst: 1.5/5 – There wasn’t a lot of queer-related angst in this one, aside from the normal “how will people in my town react when they find out” and a few times when the character puts herself down for not being “normal.” She never once doubts her identity and when she talks bad about herself to her friends/family members, they are quick to shut that down and support her.
Coming Out: 2/5 – Her coming out experiences weren’t very negative. Her family and friends were pretty supportive of her, which was great. There were a few hateful slurs used by one character but other than that it was pretty positive.
Believability: 5/5 – Clancy felt very real to me and I identified with her a lot. Her feelings towards, and interactions with, the people she was attracted to felt very authentic.