BOOK CLUB: When Only One

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[Total: 4 Average: 4.3]

When Only One by Meg Gatland-Veness is a powerful story of a group of teenagers dealing with a range of life issues. You know from the prologue that something terrible is about to happen and the mystery of who and what keeps you engrossed.

The story is set in a small NSW farming town in the late 1980s.

Seventeen-year-old Sam narrates the story. He tells it with humour but there are times when the situation is very sad.

The story starts 12 months prior. Sam shares his feelings honestly as he deals with relationships and the events that are unfolding.

Sam lives with his mum and dad and four brothers, and his parents are devout Catholics. Sam works as a lifeguard after school and is training for the Iron Man competition. He has some close mates and life is good.

Emily was Sam’s best friend from kindy. They had a falling out on his 12th birthday, but she has appeared back in his life now. Her life is in chaos. Her Mum has mental health issues and her father is an alcoholic.

A new girl, Rei, starts at the school and she’s from the rich side of town. Rei and Sam click and just like that he has met his first love.

Sam’s family and friends are really great and likable characters, you want the best for them. Unfortunately, that is not going to be the case.

The story deals with teen relationships and parent-teen relationships. Domestic violence, loss, grief and family trauma feature in this book. So does charity work and how to help in your community.

This story highlights who should be involved in helping kids who are doing it hard. Adults do need to be made aware and become involved if their children’s friends ever need support.

The book is “Young Adult  Fiction”. However, the story is a fantastic read for any age reader.

This is a book you can’t put down. I totally recommend it.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading When Only One by Meg Gatland-VenessYou can read their comments below, or add your own review.

8 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: When Only One

  1. When Only One by Meg Gatland-Veness is set in a beachside country NSW town in the 1980’s.

    Seventeen -year- old Sam and his mates are in their final year of school, training for Ironman Championship glory and struggling with their homework. But underneath this seemingly outward normal they are grappling with far bigger issues. Interwoven with the maths and English homework the issues of child neglect, domestic violence, loss, grief, loyalty to friends, mental illness, parent child relationships, social justice, poverty, religion and alcoholism give this story twists and turns that leave you guessing until the end what has happened. Like a good essay the prologue and the final chapter cover the same event, but while you know from the start something bad happens, you don’t know until the final chapter who or why.

    The characters are well developed and really come alive. I can picture the teenage boys throwing seaweed at each other, the younger brothers being annoying, the tongue-tied boy asking a girl out for the first time, the feeling that they should do something to help their friends, but not knowing what or how.

    This book covers a range of social issues narrated from the point of view of a seventeen- year -old boy, making this a great book for teens to read to help them think about and process some of these issues without feeling lectured or preached at by adults. And, because it is a work of fiction with a gripping storyline it keeps your attention. I couldn’t put this one down. It has also left me thinking about how I would have reacted to the issues raised when I was 17 or how my own children would have reacted. Would I have reacted differently or the same as the characters? To me a good book is one that makes you think afterwards, and this one certainly has. 5 stars from me.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Pantera Press for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  2. As a retired teacher, “When Only One”, resonated with me on a very personal level. Teachers are never really aware of individual students backgrounds and never fully able to comprehend what their personal circumstances dictate in their lives. I’m sure many teachers would empathise with knowing a Sam, Emily, Rei or Milo at some stage in their career . The characters are easily relatable and the story is a wonderful insight into the many and varied characters and personalities that make up every local school within our country.
    As an educator I think it is a “must read”, especially for beginning teachers to make them more aware of the diverse backgrounds our students face and the difficulties many of them confront, on a daily basis, in order to attend school. The story is packed with social dilemmas: alcoholism, abuse, suicide, poverty, religion, domestic violence and mental illness, to highlight just a few.
    Congratulations, Meg Gatland Veness on this great insight into the wide range of complex issues that many teenagers and adolescents within our society are forced to confront through no fault of their own.
    I personally, found it very hard to put down as I became very vested in the welfare of Emily and found myself reflecting on many similar students I had the privilege of teaching over the years. Students like Emily are the reason many teachers personally buy stationery items, give their own lunches and provide excursion fees, otherwise these students would simply have to do without. Countless times I have raided the “ lost property “ box to find an unclaimed jumper/jacket for an Emily who, while warm within the confines of the heated classroom, was often seen shivering in the outside playground.
    Congratulations to Meg again! Excellent reading that will move you to tears!

  3. A moving story that is funny and relatable at times and devastating at others, some parts of the story being sad and frustrating at these kids parents at times.
    A great read and I really enjoyed the epilogue to find out what happened after the event.

  4. Thanks BeautyandLace for the opportunity to read and review When Only One written by Meg Gatland-Veness.
    I would probably classify this as young adult fiction but I really enjoyed I reading it. It certainly dealt with adult themes including domestic violence, alcoholism, child neglect, suicide and loss and grief.

    The story is narrated by Sam. He seems to have the idyllic life, living in a small farming town with his mum, dad and four brothers.
    His life revolves around school, working as a life guard at the local surf club whilst saving for his first car.
    Sam’s life and upbringing is a dream compared to the life of his childhood friend Emily.
    Emily has grown up in poverty, caring for her mentally ill mother and living with her alcoholic father. Life for Emily is just barely above survival, but it’s almost like Emily knows it’s her lot on life and she just accepts it and battles on regardlessly. She doesn’t like accepting charity from others and I did wonder how she could break the cycle of poverty.

    With the start of a new school year Sam meets the girl of his dreams Rei.
    Rei and Emily couldn’t be any more different. Rei has grown up around two successful parents, both of whom are social workers, she has the world of opportunities head of her.

    Sam and Rei’s relationship blossoms, despite Sam’s parents not completely happy with how serious they are becoming, especially without any mention of marriage or any formal commitment between them as they are very religious.
    It seems that’s Sam’s life is complicated enough dealing with the usually teenager issues but everything gets turned on it head when tragedy hits the small town.
    I really thoroughly enjoyed this book, it started off a little bit slow for me but then the story really accelerated then I couldn’t put this down.
    It really made me think of how these poor kids could overcome such tragic events and move on with life.
    It’s a fantastic read and I enjoyed all the characters in the book, I would highly recommend for both young adults/adults and it would be a good starting point to talk to older teens about grief, mental illness, domestic violence, poverty and relationships in general and how life can get complicated. It’s a book that makes you think.

  5. Thanks to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Pantera Press, I had the opportunity to read ‘When Only One’ by Meg Gatland-Veness. It is in the Young Adult genre but it does feature teenagers with adult issues.

    The story’s main character is 17 year old Sam and him and his friends are in their final year of high school. While dealing with schooling, they also have to deal with loss, domestic violence, love and despair. It is a lot for them all to deal with while dealing with school and these interwoven stories are well written. This novel really shows that you never do know what is going on in other people’s lives and what they have to deal with, even teenagers.

    The novel had me guessing and was a page turner for sure. I do wish the outcome was different for many of the characters.

    A well written story, not for the faint of heart, due to the issues the characters confront.

  6. I read this novel in two nights.
    It was exquisitely written and engaging.
    I enjoyed reading every sentence as the storyline was very relatable and having a son, I could understand the family dynamics. An additional positive was being set in Australia. This book is filled with raw emotion and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read and review this stunning story.

  7. I was really excited when I was chosen to read ‘When only one’ written beautifully by Meg Gatland-Veness.
    Her writing is very descriptive and gives the reader a vivid image of what is happening throughout the story. It follows Sam and Emily and then the newcomer Rei in a school setting. It covers the roller coaster of emotions and how they navigate them in all situations. I felt this personally reflecting when I was a student navigating my way through high school and then as a mum of my kids trying to do the same.
    With mental health discussed more openly now, this book is a must read. Thanks for letting me experience this read.

  8. I found this story really intense as it deals with subject matter that kids shouldn’t have to, but often do, deal with.

    The story centres around Samson and his family, friends and first love and is told chronologically up until a tragic event. The story ends with an epilogue allowing the reader to see the effects of the event down the track.

    The story takes place in a town where the divide between the haves and have nots is very real, and it’s this difference and character movement between these two worlds that both builds the characters and allows the story to develop.

    The characters were very real, and many were dealing with some pretty strong issues including absent parents, mental illness, suicide, depression and violence.

    Despite the tragic ending this well told story highlighted the good in people.

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