It's the start of 2020 and Harper is filled with anticipation about being in the final year of Riverlark Primary. She wants a leadership role, the comfort of her friendship group, and to fly under the radar of Riverlark's mean-boy.
But one by one things go wrong. When Harper's best friends are made school captains they are consumed by their roles, while her own role - library captain - is considered second-rate. Then something major throws life off course- her parents take overseas jobs as nurses in a war zone. Harper moves in with Lolly, a grandmother she barely knows - and her five pets, vast collection of old trinkets and very different expectations.
Just as Harper is getting used to Lolly, the pandemic arrives, and her goodbye year is nothing like she'd hoped it would be. Strange things are happening- she wakes in the night in odd places, fixates on an old army badge that seems to have a mind of its own, and on a visit to the school library during lockdown she's convinced she's seen a ghost. Who is haunting her?
Can she get through the anxiety of the pandemic without her mum and dad? And will Harper find a way to be happy with her goodbye year?
A beautiful story about saying goodbye, new beginnings, and the eternal power of friendship.
It’s the start of 2020 and Harper has just started Year 6 at Riverlark when her parents drop a bombshell – they are going to Yemen to do aid work in a hospital, and are leaving Harper behind with her grandmother, Lolly, who she barely knows.
But that’s not the only change this year. It’s their last year of primary school, and Harper’s friends are changing all around her. She feels like they are leaving her behind. Then comes an even bigger change – the pandemic hits and suddenly school is closed, there’s a lockdown, and Harper is stuck in Lolly’s flat that doesn’t even have internet, with her five pets. And there are weird things happening too - a strange cadet badge keeps appearing, and a weird sensation Harper keeps feeling, as well as a strange glistening she keeps seeing...
When school finally returns, Harper isn’t sure where she fits. Her friends are hanging out with the horrible Corey, and they are all too busy with their leadership roles to bother with her. When Harper’s shimmering visions finally appear as a ghost named Will, Harper has a whole new problem on her hands. Why is Will stuck here? Can she solve the mystery and help Will say goodbye to Riverlark before her goodbye year is over too?
A fabulous story about growing up, navigating the challenges and confusion of the last year of primary school and the awkwardness of puberty, learning to say goodbye and the importance of friendship. The Goodbye Year is a beautifully written story that deftly weaves the challenges that Harper is faced with in 2020, into the historical challenges that confronted young people in the past, like World War and the Spanish flu, and shows that no matter what happens we can always rise to the difficulties that face us. A fantastic read for those in upper primary, especially those embarking on their own “goodbye year”.
Reviewed by Kate