Carly Lark is in a tough spot. Not only has her best friend Tanya left for a year in Australia, but a letter from Tanya has made it clear that the friendship is not all that Carly thought it was. On top of it all, Carly is also desperately lonely for Sally, Tanya's mother, who is the closest thing to a mother she has experienced since her own mother left when Carly was in kindergarten.
Reacting to the loss of Tanya, Carly befriends the Radfords, a family who have just moved in to the basement apartment across the street. Tough-talking, sixteen-year-old Dawn Radford seems to have everything Carly doesn't: glamour, style and the confidence to deal with boys. The makeover that Dawn gives Carly begins the confrontation between the working-class Radfords, whose poverty has them teetering on the edge of family breakdown, and Muriel Lark, Carly's respectable and stern grandmother, who sees Dawn's friendship with Carly as merely exploitive. Carly struggles to handle the increasing complexities of her life — homework, hanging out with "cool" kids at her local high school, her often tense home life and what she feels is a growing obligation to the Radfords. Though her effort to help the Radfords ends disastrously, Carly gradually learns to look beyond appearances and to take charge of her own life.
Jocelyn Shipley writes with insight, compassion and a deft touch for humour. Getting a Life is an honest, moving portrayal of adolescent life and how families work in different ways.
Canadian Children's Book Centre 2002 "Our Choice" selection.
Jocelyn Shipley's collection of linked short stories, Cross My Heart, an "Our Choice" selection for 2005, was published by Sumach Press in 2004. Her most recent YA novel, Seraphina's Circle, was published by Sumach Press in 2005. Shipley divides her time between Ontario and British Columbia. www.jocelynshipley.com