Book Review: We Are Young by Cat Clarke

We Are Young starts right in the middle of the action as someone calls the emergency services from the site of a car crash. It’s horrific. There are details that I may never erase from my brain. It hooks you in. There were four people in the car, and only one survives.

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The story then moves to Evan, who is at her mother’s wedding, and does not seem to be enjoying herself. Her mum is marrying Breakfast Tim, a radio show host. Evan doesn’t love him, but she’s happy for her mum, and she’s trying to enjoy herself. Or at least act like it. At one point in the evening she has sex with Marcus Bloom, and she reflects on this a lot, not least because it was unprotected, and Marcus is a total creep.

Tim’s son, Lewis isn’t at the wedding. Evan and her mum talk about it. They’re close and her mum can talk to her about anything. She trusts Evan and is always asking her things like “what did I do to deserve you?” but to Evan, this sometimes feels oppressive, like a warning that she can’t make mistakes and disappoint her mum. Evan is trying to be happy for her mum, to make the night enjoyable. Then the call comes: Lewis was in the accident. He is the one who survived. But, he’s in a coma.

Tim and Lewis didn’t have an especially close relationship before the accident. Evan can empathise, because her relationship with her own father is strained. Her brother, Billy, adores their dad, but Evan knows something that Billy doesn’t, and it makes her angry. Her dad has an alcohol problem, and he’s still battling with it during the story.

Evan doesn’t love Tim either, she doesn’t hate him, but she starts to notice odd things in how Tim is behaving around Lewis, and the way he acts in general, and she doesn’t always like what she sees. He puts her in an awkward position on his radio show, it makes her really uncomfortable and it changes everything, jeopardising her friendships with Daze and Sid. Evan sees a different side to Tim, and it’s very different to the Tim who cooks for them, buys them expensive presents and encourages them to have a relationship with Harry.

One of Evan’s old friends, Karolina, was in the accident.  Evan struggles with her feelings about this because the two of them weren’t really friends any more. They had grown apart, and Evan is unprepared for the effect that Karolina’s death has on her. She has other friends now, Daze and Sid, who are both her exes and the three of them are in a band together. Somehow, it’s not awkward at all, and I love their friendship group.

Evan and Lewis weren’t close, but Evan spends a lot of time at the hospital with him, talking to him and reading. When the press blame Lewis, and bring up drugs and other issues which may have caused the accident Evan feels for Lewis and starts to look into what happened. Her dad is doing the same, but Harry is a reporter and Evan doesn’t know if she can or should trust him. Watching Evan work through her issues with her dad was one of the most interesting parts of the story for me. What Harry and Evan find out will change everything, and it gave an ending to the story that I could never have predicted.

We Are Young is an action-packed, gripping book, with lots of interesting issues. There is never a dull moment. Cat Clarke’s writing is wonderful, and if you haven’t read this book yet, you should definitely get on that.

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