Call Me Evie
JP Pomare
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Buy *Call Me Evie* by JP Pomare online

Call Me Evie
JP Pomare
GP Putnam's Sons
368 pages
March 2019
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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How far will people go to protect their dark secrets? In Pomare's debut novel, 17-year-old Evie Turner must confront the demons of her own violent past. As the novel opens, Evie's head is being shaved by a man called Jim. Evie isn't sure why she's living in a town on the New Zealand coast. She remembers living in Melbourne at the old house down in Portsea with a sick mother. She recalls gravitating between extreme emotions--rage, bliss and grief, ecstasy and agony.

Evie knows that recent circumstances have delivered her and "Jim" to this isolated place. Trekking up to the headland, Evie feels Jim's nervous energy. She's irritated at his over-protectiveness and outward discomfort at their situation. She's horror-stricken at the pills that he forces her to take, pills that make her constantly sleepy. With a headache like a "worrying ulcer," Evie tells herself that time will heal and that the world beyond won't affect her anymore.

Rigorously keeping tabs on her and indulging in a punishing effort to make her take the pills, Jim ignores Evie's recollections of gripping the steering wheel and the crunch of the car hitting something. There was only darkness: "There is only me, my body thrumming with adrenaline." Ensconced in a fog of confusion, Evie knows there was an accident. In desperation, she connects with Iso, a local boy who tells her that there are other options other than the police.

Aching for an opportunity to escape Jim's clutches, Evie sits in her bedroom. At night, with the cold, gritty air circling around her, Evie tries to dislodge her mind, but she struggles to distinguish between what is a memory, what is a dream, and what she's invented from everything Jim has planted in her head.

Who exactly is Jim? Why has he flown Evie all the way across the Tasman? Jim's blind loyalty is clandestine will be the catalyst that ignites Evie's memories. In Melbourne, Evie prepares for exams and lives with her retired rugby star dad. In the "After" sections, we meet magnetic Willow, Evie's best friend at Windsor Girls' Grammar, a private school where Evie she spends her days trying to fit in. Dark-haired Thom is the first boy to show Evie any sort if attention: "I imagined the future him, imagined the future versions of us: private kisses, school dances, attracting the envious eyes of all of my friends."

Pomare winds his tale around Evie's burning ideals and her desire to escape from a man whose only mission seems to be to imprison her and keep her isolated from the truth.

I think about everything that has happened since we arrived: the children throwing stones, the three-legged dog, Jim almost hitting a boy with his car, the man in black, and Iso's mum leering at me when she picked me up. Then I think about the things that happened before: falling for Thom, Dad meeting with Thom's parents, afternoons at Willow's, the video... Is Evie's imagination inventing things? "I know somehow Jim is responsible, I just need to find a way to prove it." Everything Jim says, everything he suggests is "a manipulation." It's still possible that Evie had nothing to do with any of it; it's possible her dreams are just fabrications, that she wasn't there "that night" in these newly imagined wisps of memory she will never truly understand. Loyalty between father and daughter is given dramatic flesh-and-blood life as Evie's newfound reality reveals how her and Jim's intricate untruths are woven together.

Pomare portrays young Evie floating adrift, desperate to escape Jim, whose motivations are never quite clear, until the truth unfolds in a final surprising ending that renders the story all the more distressing. Call Me Evie proves the power of family love.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Michael Leonard, 2019

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