The Opposite of Chocolate

I seem to be destined to have a new favourite Julie Bertagna book each time I read something by her. Let me tell you about my most recent favourite.

There are many ways to write a novel about an unwanted teenage pregnancy. Julie Bertagna’s is by far the best I’ve come across. In The Opposite of Chocolate she writes about this topic in an unusual and mature manner, and yet so lightly that you barely see how she does it.

Although Sapphire is only 14 (which in itself is daring; ‘allowing’ someone so young to have a sex life, without preaching), the book mentions babies and pregnancies and abortion and parenthood and relationships as though the readers are all adults.

Julie Bertagna, The Opposite of Chocolate

They will be one day, and may well encounter Sapphire’s problem before they are. This novel will help them. Julie doesn’t say that one way is the right way. She manages to cover all the aspects of what a pregnant 14-year-old could find themselves facing. She looks at all the solutions, analysing what’s good and bad about each of them.

Sapphire’s parents have opposing ideas of how to solve their daughter’s predicament, and her sister has yet another. Everyone, from the family priest to the GP and the media have ideas, and no one remembers to listen to Sapphire herself.

At the same time, their suburb suffers arsonist attacks every night, and eventually the two meet, and lives change.

This is a short book, but Julie fits in descriptions of the lives of so many people that I felt several of them could do with books of their own, almost. All are different, and all have their own needs and problems. The Catholic church have their policy, and the GP has his. Even Sapphire’s seemingly perfect girl gang friend, who steals her boyfriend, has a ‘background.’ And not all old people are useless, and most of them were young once.

This is truly wonderful!


8 responses to “The Opposite of Chocolate

  1. When you say this is truly wonderful, I believe you. I’ll hunt it down.

  2. That makes me pleased, but nervous. But at the same time I’m just surprised I didn’t know about this book before, and it deserves to be known and read by (almost) everyone.

  3. This was such a glowing review that I was inspired to buy the book for my school library straight away! It was a shame to find out that it is already out of print, so I may have to take a punt on an Amazon used seller.

  4. What an amazing review. You made my day! Books can have a very short life these days – this was published in 2004 and is just recently out of print, despite still being popular in schools. I’m proud to say it was once among the most-stolen school library books. Though it did cause a bit of a stooshie too. (Stooshie: very useful Scots word; I recommend it.) I plan to release an ebook version which won’t be much use to schools, I’m afraid – though I hear more and more schools are using e-readers, so who knows?

  5. Blast. That’s very early for oop. Yes, go on amazon. I can’t offer my copy, as it came with the most wonderful dedication…
    I think we need to be told what stooshie means, or we could go round embarrassing ourselves.
    Most stolen library book I can believe.

  6. I agree about the quality of this book ( and others by J.B..’Soundtrack’ made me want to write myself.) As for going oop – 8 years seems quite long in these days of publishing madness, here in England at least. A couple of years ago I was in a lovely bookshop in the States – Eight Cousins on Cape Cod – and I was delighted to find so many favourite books from my childhood still in print. That is more years in print than I’m prepared to say!

  7. Agreed. Oop is too fast. I just meant that great books need longer than this. The whole set-up is ridiculous.

  8. Jane, I’m really touched by that. There are all sorts of books and life events that trigger the putting of pen to paper; I’m honoured to be one of yours.

    I’ve heard of far too many books going out of print in just a year or two, after little or no promotion. Books are no longer allowed to have lulls or be slow-burners. At least they can have a new lease of life electronically…. and where publishers overlook that opportunity, authors can grasp the thistle. (Just throwing in a thistle to add to the stushie.)

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