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Published in 2019 by Hachette Australia
Genres: Young Adult Contemporary, Thriller/Mystery Fiction.
Page Count: 280
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Sypnosis from Hachette Australia:
Amelia Westlake meets My Favorite Murder in this debut from a terrific new voice in Australian YA. Combines a realistic story about high school drama and toxic friendship with true crime – the endlessly fascinating Somerton Man or Taman Shud mystery.
15-year-old Lara Laylor feels like supporting character in her own life. She’s Ashley’s best friend, she’s Hannah’s sister-she’s never just Lara.
When new history teacher Mr. Grant gives her an unusual assignment: investigating the mystery of the Somerton Man. Found dead in on an Adelaide beach in 1948, a half-smoked cigarette still in his mouth and the labels cut out of his clothes, the Somerton Man has intrigued people for years. Was he a spy? A criminal? Year 10 has plenty of mysteries of its own: boys, drama queen friends, and enigmatic new students. When they seem just as unsolvable as a 60-year-old cold case, Lara finds herself spending more and more time on the assignment. But Mr Grant himself may be the biggest mystery of all…
Interspersed with fictionalised snapshots of the Somerton Man investigation, ALL THAT IMPOSSIBLE SPACE is a coming of age novel exploring toxic friendships and the balance of power between teacher and student, perfect for fans of Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood.
A huge thank you to Australian YA Bloggers for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour and to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of this book to review! Be sure to check out everyone’s reviews and posts here.
This book was so addictive, I finished it in all of a day- and enjoyed it greatly! I think the author did an absolute riveting job presenting the mystery of The Somerton Man, who’s body was found slumped on the Beach of the same name (hence the collective title of the mystery) and she blended fact with her own fiction so intricately!
In fact, my knowledge of The Somerton Man case had been relatively non existent! But as soon as I heard about this book – I couldn’t wait to learn more, so I was utterly thrilled to learn I was a part of the blog tour regarding this book! I couldn’t wait to pick up this book and once I got started – I refused to put this book down!
I instantly adored Lara, our amazing MC and I initially really enjoyed the friendship between her and her best friend, Ash, although I must admit that I was slightly disappointed at the path that the latter’s character took down the course of this novel, although not altogether surprised, I must admit. See, Lara had always been supportive of Ashley, she’d even knock back her own goals of wanting to run marathons and practice for that, to audition for the school’s musical play, Into the Woods, which she ends up succeeding rather well in!
Which was fabulous, of course, but as I read on, I could clearly see cracks forming in this close friendship, with Ashley being unnecessarily spiteful when Lara grows closer to Kate, the new student at the school, and when the three of them are buddied up to investigate the case of the Somerton Man, Ashley is rudely disrespectful of the opinions of the other two! I mean, she was never a hardcore history student and that’s fine, she just didn’t need to belittle Lara’s interest, or judge her for meeting with their History teacher, Mr Grant and sharing enthusiasm about the case.
It’s funny, I was totally surprised at the path that was taken too, with Mr Grant’s character, but looking back, I should’ve realised that his actions towards Lara and his enthusiasm about the case that was assigned to her, Kate and Ashley, was slightly a bit too enthusiastic, even for someone who was clearly passionate about the case, well, at any rate, I hope he was!
I loved how the author added case notes throughout the story, even if they were fictionalised accounts, I just feel like they tied together so well with the lead up and aftermath of the body being found on Somerton Beach! There was even a few pages from the gentleman who performed the autopsy on the man and I just thought that was so brilliant and emotionally constructed! It really added to the raw emotion of the fact that this man that could have been murdered/doubtful suicide/ possibly poisoned – but no traces of poison in his system and no dental records matching his from anywhere in the US, UK or Australia, could well have just been a lone soul, navigating the waves and crashes of everyday life (really enjoyed Lara’s own metaphor, stemmed from her own experience and panic about once being swept up in extremely strong currents when at the beach with her family).
Aside from the brilliant take on this eternally fascinating mystery (one of which I’ll definitely be looking at more information about!), I really enjoyed Lara’s friendships with Kate and Jos – all their interactions were just so much fun, they could all be themselves with one another – I even thought Kate and Ash were becoming tolerant of one another, wrong I was – but that’s really all down to a dodgy bully move from Ash, though I can definitely say Kate came out on top of that, and I definitely think Ash got what she deserved- it was just so unfortunate to see her turn into such a brat! The misery that she caused Lara at times was just awful!
Honourable mention to Hannah, Lara’s absent sister, but not wholly and most certainly still present even when she doesn’t initially appear throughout the story! Lara had always felt in her elder Sister’s shadow, which was completely understandable, but I definitely enjoyed their scenes together! As well as Lara’s parents, they were so loving, albeit sometimes distracted, and I can’t not mention Jos’ book hoarding tendencies! He’s even quoted (well, his mum is), saying that he rescues books from thrift stores, my bookish heart was very happy!
Overall, an outstanding debut from a refreshing and exceptionally talented author! I cannot wait to see what’s next from the author! A huge thank you again to Hachette Australia and AusYABloggers for providing me with a copy of this book to review and for having me as part of this amazing tour!
And now, I’m thrilled to also be posting an interview with this amazing author, Anna Morgan!
Note: I had asked these questions prior to finishing All That Impossible Space. (Anna’s answers are in italics).
‘Hi Anna, thank you so much for taking the time out to answer these questions! I just started the book today and I’m enjoying it so much already!’
1. What made your curiosity peak about the case of The Somerton Man and incorporate this true life mystery into your novel? I think it’s such a brilliant idea and fascinating case!
I’m so glad you like the case – I love it too. I came across it when I was procrastinating working on a university assignment by reading about weird unsolved mysteries (which is brilliant, since I can now pretend that all internet rabbit hole procrastination is Very Important Writing Work). The Somerton Man captivated me because of the Australian setting, and the truly bizarre and poetic details that emerged. I also loved that the more I researched it the more fascinated I became – I was expecting to figure out an obvious solution pretty quickly, but this case just got stranger and deeper. I also connected emotionally with the idea of a man without an identity – the loneliness and longing for connection I felt for him was similar to a lot of my feelings in my teen years.
2. Who were some of your favourite authors growing up? What inspires you to write?
An impossible and wonderful question! A few of my favourites in my teen years (and still now) are Jaclyn Moriarty, Melina Marchetta, Margo Llanagan, Markus Zusak, John Green, Jane Austen (I reread Pride and Prejudice when I need to be reminded of a perfect plot), Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne-Jones – oh goodness, I could go on forever.
Some of the first books I read on my own as a child were Enid Blyton boarding school stories – I was being homeschooled in Tibet at the time with only my two brothers for company, and I found all the complex relationships between girls and the enclosed ecosystem of a school very addictive! I think that’s part of what prompted me to write about the friendships between Lara, Ash, and Kate I explored in All That Impossible Space.
I’m inspired to write because reading leads to curiosity and empathy, and I think the world would be better if we were all a little more curious and empathetic. I also love that feeling of connecting with characters – many of the characters from the books above felt like friends to me through my teen years. If I can pass on that gift to a reader I’d be honoured.
3. Friendship is an important aspect of this novel and I just adore the bond between Lara and Ash, they’re definitely a great contrast of one another – who are some of your favourite bookish friendships that you enjoy reading about?
I love this question so much! I love the friendship between Cas, Em, and Lyd in Jaclyn Moriarty’s Ashbury/Brookfield books – they are all so different and hilarious in their own ways, and love each other fiercely. I also fell in love with the group of friends in Saving Francesca (and Melina Marchetta has blessed us with a recent sequel where we get to revisit them!) especially since you start off dismissing some characters and by the end of the book you’d do anything for them.
4. What advice would you give to aspiring writers? And in turn, do you have a favourite piece of advice you were given?
My first piece of advice is to read! Read widely across lots of genres, and read what you enjoy. I have a ‘50 page’ rule – I give a book 50 pages, and if it hasn’t grabbed me by then, I put it down and read something else. Reading is the best teacher: you’ll internalise so much about language, plot, and character by reading. Second piece of advice – find a community. Writing can be a strange lonely thing to do, but there are so many other bookish people out there who’d love to connect with you. Writers Victoria have been brilliant in helping me to connect with other writers and learn from them, so I’d investigate joining the equivalent group in your state if you’re able. And of course there’s lots of great connections to be found online 😊
And I think my favourite piece of writing advice that I’ve been given is that sometimes you need to leave the computer and go for a walk. It is amazing how much easier all my impossible plot problems feel after some fresh air.
5. I always enjoy learning what other authors enjoy reading, so what are you currently reading? What have been some of your favourite books so far this year?
I’m currently reading Helena Fox’s YA debut How It Feels To Float and oh wow, it’s glorious. So emotionally honest and the writing is lyrical and powerful and not quite like anything I’ve read before. I’ve also loved some non-fiction books that touch on the craft of writing that I’ve read this year – Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel and Deborah Levy’s pair of memoirs The Things I Do Not Want To Know and The Cost of Living. Oh and a few more YA books I’ve loved this year – Jenna Guillaume’s What I Like About Me which was a complete joy, Juno Dawson’s Meat Market – totally chilling and addictive – and It Sounded Better in My Head (another great debut by Nina Kenwood out in August – one of the best depictions of the awkwardness of being a teenager I’ve ever read!).
Thank you so much again, Anna for answering these questions – I can’t wait to dive back into the book!
Thank you! These questions were so thoughtful and interesting. I hope you enjoy the book!