The Flywheel by Erin Gough (Hardie Grant Egmont, 1 February 2015)
THE FLYWHEEL is a funny and absolutely wonderful coming-of-age tale with a generous heaping of friendship and a dash of sweet romance.
Delilah is seventeen when her mum runs off to be with another man. Del persuades her heartbroken dad to go on holiday and see the world, leaving Del to help out at his café, the Flywheel, with Dominic the manager in charge. When a twist of circumstances means that Dominic can't work at the café anymore, Del is left on her own. Bullied at school for being a lesbian, Del decides that she's had enough of school and she drops out to run the café full-time. But can a seventeen-year-old girl run a café by herself and deal with her feelings for the beautiful girl who dances flamenco at the tapas restaurant opposite at the same time?
One of my favourite aspects of the book is reading about Del running the café. I always love it when YA books feature teenage characters entering the world of work, and it's just so awesome reading about Del trying to run a whole café by herself! It just added so much to the novel and I really admired Del for being able to keep it all together, though she does run into a lot of failures. She's a very headstrong character and I really love her. I thought her relationship with her dad was also lovely and that her dad seemed like such a sweetheart! I do wish there had been more of Del's dad, but the novel is about how well she copes in his absence, I suppose.
I absolutely loved the friendships in this book as well. Del's really good friends with Charlie, who is a delight: a fickle, charming rich boy who falls out of love just as soon as he falls into it, who pines over a different woman every week, who doesn't do well at school and has been kicked out of several already, whose mother died from cancer and whose dad doesn't care. Del and Charlie are really supportive of each other and they can always talk about girls together. There was just a really fabulous scene in the book when they get drunk together and they're both an absolute mess. I love how comfortable they are with each other.
I also love how Del was best friends with Lauren before but they've drifted apart since Del came out to her, because Del feels like Lauren doesn't seem to ever want to talk about the fact that Del likes girls and to ask Del what that's like for her. It was really relatable – sometimes you come out and you feel really isolated from your friends because it seems like, even though they're okay with the fact that you're not straight, they don't really seem to ever ask you anything about it or want to talk about your crushes or your problems with you, and you don't feel like you can tell them how hard it is to deal with other people's homophobia. I loved watching Del and Lauren try and mend their friendship and bridge that gap between them again.
Del had struck up an unlikely friendship with Georgina, one of the popular girls at school before the start of this book and they'd ended up fooling around together before Georgina suddenly turned on her and spread it round the whole school that Del had perved on her and tried to pressure her into doing things she didn't want to do, and it was so heartbreaking to read about. Those were some of my favourite parts of the book, Del's bitter memories of the times she and Georgina had kissed and touched each other.
I thought that in comparison to Del's past with Georgina, her present love story with Rosa is actually not as well developed. I really liked Rosa as a character: she's a very passionate and driven person who campaigns to save the local library from demolition, and she uses these great campaigning skills to help Del with her café as well. She's conflicted about dancing flamenco at the tapas bar because she's been doing it for so long and she's tired of it, but it makes her family happy. She's definitely an interesting character in her own right, but I just wasn't so sure that her and Del's attraction to each other was that convincingly portrayed and their romance turned out to be the part of the novel that I cared the least about. That's not to say I didn't care about it at all: it was cute and I definitely rooted for them, but I just wished there had been even more of a spark and that they would have spent more time with each other, talking and getting to know each other better.
Even though I wasn't 100% into the romance, I'm so glad I got to read THE FLYWHEEL. It's an engaging and heartwarming book which shines with life and brims with happiness. You all need to read it!