Fact and fantasy
'Six friends attend a music festival in Cedarberg. Only five come back," begins the synopsis of Sally-Ann Partridge's latest novel Sharp Edges.
The critically-acclaimed author of fiction for young adults has a vivid imagination, one that accurately captures the essence of adolescence. Named one of Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans in 2011, a distinction awarded annually to notable South Africans under the age of 35, Partridge (right) has published five novels, plus numerous short stories.
When reading Sharp Edges, it becomes clear that there is no beginning, middle or end, figuratively speaking. Of course the book starts and ends, but more accurately, its premise is presented in six short stories. Each point of view takes the reader through a series of events, all leading to a single misfortune the death of the various characters’ dear friend Demi.
“I wanted to write six different stories in one,” says Partridge.
“The only thing the characters had in common was that they attended the same party, but other than that, their perceptions of that night were completely different. I needed them to be different, because none of us are the same. We live in the same world but our realities are our own.
Each chapter is dedicated to one particular character, grieving the loss of their friend. And writing in the first person allows readers to step directly into the character’s shoes, each one with their personal demons and repercussions.”
While many local youth authors write with the intention of getting their books accepted as school setworks, Partridge opts to explore more risky territory. “I wanted to play with time and perspective,” she says. “While the plot appears invisible, there are traces of it throughout.”
It is this aspect that will make Sharp Edge’s readers want to burrow further down into the rabbit hole. Partridge, whose career was largely inspired by the works of American author LJ Smith (The Vampire Diaries), has a tattoo of Smith’s name on her wrist.
One of the themes she shares with Smith is the awareness of the importance of explaining how the teenage years can be messy and confusing. They are filled with issues and hurts that are often tossed aside and never spoken about. So although Partidge’s fiction allows for exaggeration, her stories are not without truth.
“Too often, young adults avoid talking about their problems by not saying what they should be saying,” she explains.
“I tried to capture that. In fact, I didn’t really know what the conclusion was going to be until I wrote it. A lot of books don’t expose the ugly things in life. They pretend to be all wonderful when we know life isn’t always perfect. I like to address real issues because my readers can relate to them my books are really just an extension of life. It is stories like these that kids learn bravery from and are encouraged to face their problems head on, just like Siya.”
Siya is a homesexual character in Sharp Edges, whose parents would never approve of his lifestyle. The book examines the solidity of friendships tested by doses of jealousy, love triangles, rebellion and freedom.