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Sharp Edges by SA Partridge (Human & Rousseau, R135)
SA PARTRIDGE has done it again – she has tapped into the spirit of youth culture and unravelled the lives of six young people.
We start the novel knowing the worst has happened – Demi is dead, tragically drowned on her 17th birthday while she was attending an outdoor music festival. But then things become murky as we work our way backwards to that fatal night.
Who is guilty? What really happened that night? Have all five inadvertently contributed in some way to Demi’s demise? These questions linger all the way to the end.
We all knew girls like Demi when we were still at school. They were the beautiful, bright ones who lived as if there were no consequences at all to their actions.
Girls like Demi draw others to them, and it’s apt to use the moths-to-a-flame analogy here, with all the damage from close contact implied. We are introduced to Ashley, Damian, Verushka – or V as she prefers to be known – Siya and James.
All are brittle with – as the title implies – sharp edges, and are as much defined by their dysfunctional relationships with those around them as they are self-absorbed.
Ashley is the odd one out, always trying and, in her mind, failing to fit in. Her crushingly low self-image means she struggles to participate. V and James spiral around each other in a peculiar stilted relationship. It’s clear they are deeply fascinated by one another, yet neither is willing to take that first step.
Siya battles to live up to his father’s expectations, as much as he tries to express himself sexually.
Damian is hopelessly and unutterably infatuated with Demi – so much so that he falls apart completely when she dies.
What makes this story so specifically poignant is the fact that Partridge sketches out characters that will resonate with people for different reasons.
And she cuts close to the bone with her observations. We see our younger selves in the broken facets, and the image reflected to us isn’t always nice or particularly comfortable.
Dark, gritty and scratchy behind the eyes, Sharp Edges offers a glimpse into how casual cruelties can offer tragic, unintended consequen- ces, which can ripple outward with devastating effect.
The novel will haunt you for a long time after you’re done reading, and Partridge masterfully holds you in suspense all the way to the last page. – Nerine Dorman