TITLE: All That Impossible Space
AUTHOR: Anna Morgan
GENRE: General fiction (children's / teenage)
REVIEWER: SHIZA FARHAN
For 15-year-old Lara Laylor, life seems to be simply one thing: not hers. Outshone by an absent older sister and controlled by an overbearing best friend, it’s the school’s new history teacher, Mr Grant, who provides Lara with the opportunity to uncover the Somerton Man murder mystery – and, alongside it, her true self.
Anna Morgan’s 2019 debut novel All That Impossible Space is a classic coming-of-age story that encompasses the struggles of toxic friendships, first loves and undiscovered passions. Morgan’s way of telling Lara’s story – honest and simple – captures the complexity of the teenage years without adding the cheap melodrama often associated with this age group. To read the book is like placing oneself in Lara’s shoes as she navigates through the hurt, excitement and possibilities of that year.
The dynamic between Lara and her best friend Ash, who she met in primary school, is what carries this narrative. Throughout the book we see Lara undergo the age-old internal battle of wanting to remain friends with someone who is controlling and manipulative simply due to the wonderful memories they share. All her life, Lara recalls, it was Ash who got to decide what was ‘cool’ for the duo, who decided what Lara liked and why she did. As a reader you constantly groan at the compliant nature Lara adopts towards her best friend – and, to an extent, her family as well. However, despite Lara’s character arc being quite predicable, it is still satisfying.
The integration of the Somerton Man murder mystery is a clever trick Morgan has executed to perfection. An unsolved case from 1948, the snippets sprinkled throughout the book add an extra layer of complexity to the story –while you are trying to solve the ongoing turmoils of Lara and Ash’s friendship, you are also trying to piece together a mystery. The genius of this is that it engages the reader further and leaves you wanting to research the case after you’ve finished reading.
A small criticism, however, that must be noted is the lack of connection between the novel’s title and its contents. Aesthetically the cover checks the box: sparkly blue ocean water backdropping the neat, yet youthful inked title. But apart from this the title serves no purpose. Having just read Lara’s teenage struggles, as well as discovering details of the Somerton Man, there seems to be no relevance between the title and the plot. Perhaps it was some cleverly thought-up metaphor or symbol. Perhaps it references the ‘space’ between adulthood and adolescence. Or perhaps it hints at the space between the two best friends. Whatever Morgan is trying to suggest, unfortunately, it went straight over my head. So, a piece of advice: after finishing this excellent book – do not look at the cover!
Now the big question: would I recommend this book? To be succinct – Yes! It was an easy and satisfying read, commendably exposing traditional teenage issues in a light, yet refreshing manner. Containing no explicit references, I’d recommend this book to anyone over the age of 12. It’s a worthwhile read!