Monday, 3 July 2017

Night Swimming by Steph Bowe

Night Swimming by Steph Bowe
Published April 3, 2017 by Text Publishing
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb: Imagine being the only two seventeen-year-olds in a small town. That’s life for Kirby Arrow—named after the most dissenting judge in Australia’s history—and her best friend Clancy Lee, would-be musical star.
Clancy wants nothing more than to leave town and head for the big smoke, but Kirby is worried: her family has a history of leaving. She hasn’t heard from her father since he left when she was a baby. Shouldn’t she stay to help her mother with the goat’s-milk soap-making business, look after her grandfather who suffers from dementia, be an apprentice carpenter to old Mr Pool? And how could she leave her pet goat, Stanley, her dog Maude, and her cat Marianne?
But two things happen that change everything for Kirby. She finds an article in the newspaper about her father, and Iris arrives in town. Iris is beautiful, wears crazy clothes, plays the mandolin, and seems perfect, really, thinks Kirby. Clancy has his heart set on winning over Iris. Trouble is Kirby is also falling in love with Iris…

Night Swimming is Steph Bowe's third novel. Set in the fictional rural town of Alberton, the story revolves around seventeen-year-old Kirby Arrow. Kirby lives with her mum, grandad, cousin, and a menagerie of animals. Her mum runs the goat milk soap business her grandad started many years ago. Kirby is learning how to be an apprentice carpenter and plans to stay on in town, rather than leave, like most teens do. Her best friend, Clancy, is one of those who plans to leave as soon as possible. Then a new girl moves to town and both Kirby and Clancy fall for her.

It was fun getting to know Kirby. She has a pet goat, Stanley, who accompanies her on walks to and from town. She's a great best friend to Clancy. She's loyal to her family. But, Kirby struggles with the idea of leaving because abandonment is a theme in her family. Her grandmother left when her mum was a child, and Kirby's father left when she was only a few months old. On top of this, Kirby's grandad has dementia and it feels as though Kirby is losing him too. She is fiercely protective of him and resents her mum's plan to move him into a home. Kirby's relationship with her mother is also complicated. Her mother is quite distant, uncaring, and uninterested, probably due to her own maternal issues, but I liked how this was explored in the story. Kirby doesn't have the typical family that's often shown in YA, and I'm sure there'll be teens who appreciate this.

The book features diverse characters and doesn't rely on outdated stereotypes when it comes to small towns. Clancy is Chinese and his family run a popular restaurant in town, one that is well supported by the local community. When Iris comes out she too has the support of her family. Iris is biracial (her father is Indian) and they are also welcomed to town, though both she and Clancy have experienced racism in the past.

Kirby's crush on Iris and their developing romance was beautiful and so realistic. It was sweet to see Kirby overthink everything and worry about what to say whenever Iris was around. And for Kirby to discover she was desirable.

Ableist language: idiot, insane, crazy, fool, loon, lame, dumb.

Night Swimming is amusing, quirky, and all heart. The story tackles family, sexuality, racism, small town-life, and is the perfect read for high school teens.

Thank you to Text Publishing for my copy.

Illustration: Henn Kim
Cover design: Jessica Horrocks

The covers for Steph Bowe's previous two books were photograph-based, so this illustrated cover is something new and I really like it. The illustration is cute and I like the range of colours.

You can watch the video of my nail art here or on my YouTube channel, or view the photos below.


  1. Love the nail art for this one! :D Beautiful review! OMG I didn't know that there was so much diversity in this! I've pushed this to my next-read - I have like 10 books borrowed from the library including Night Swimming and wasn't sure what I'd pick up next! This sounds really amazing. Thanks for the review, Mands! :DDD

    Cass @ Words on Paper

    1. Wonderful! I hope you enjoy it, Cass!

    2. I just finished it last night! The pages just FLEW BY!!! :D <3 I'm trying my hardest to write my review, which is so hard because I loved it, but then not much happened? But it was just so well written, I couldn't believe how quickly I was able to read it! Thank you sooo much, I would never have picked it up so early on if it weren't for you! ;)

  2. I love the dress with the tiny rainbows!


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