So a friend of mine once told me that kids like to read books set in a place that’s familiar to them…maybe I’m a kid at heart, or this applies to everyone, because reading ‘The Best Feeling of All’ made me so very nostalgic! The novel is set on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, which is where I grew up, and the strong sense of place really had me hooked from the beginning. I must also mention now that Jack Ellis seems to be the king of believable teen dialogue. The whip tight and age appropriate narrative throughout the novel really helped bring it all together and kept it all moving along nicely.
The novel explores the lives of Mol and Jaz, best friends growing up on the beaches at three critical stages of their development – Adolescence, Nineteen and Adulthood. Mol, the protagonist is dependable, level headed and mature while Jaz is a bit of a potty mouthed free spirit, head strong and in many ways, immature. When Mol’s mother, step-dad and younger brother decide to relocate to Perth for work, Mol decides to stay in Sydney to remain closer to her father and Jaz. What follows is a crazy ride through a decade in their lives, where the reader shares the highs, the lows and all the bits in between, which, in hindsight, the characters are made to realise were really the best years – or, the best feeling of all.
“So much of their excitement and conversations…had been about making plans about the infinite, sparkling possibilities that lay ahead. but lately, it had felt like the plans had already been made; uni, work, babies, and like they were quietly realising the journey was over and all they had to do was unpack”
One of the things I loved most about the novel was how the author cleverly used the three distinct parts of the novel to show character progression over the years. He allowed the reader to fill in the parts in between themselves, as opposed to spelling it all out. I was at times genuinely shocked and saddened at where life had taken some of my favourite characters.
Finding yourself, finding purpose in life, striving for independence while simultaneously feeling like your life is out of your control are just some of the themes explored in the book. The changing nature of friendships, as well as the responsibilities that come with adulthood are another. I recommend this book to both young adult and adult readers- however I will stress there are strong scenes, particularly in the first half of the book. It’s probably a great one for parents to read, (even if it will probably make them lock up their kids until 25) as I found it quite reflective of the reality of being a teen/twenty-something.