Category Archives: reviews

The Flyaway Girls: what Paula thinks

As a jiggly-bottomed girl who can’t do a cartwheel, reviewing a novel that focuses on competitive gymnastics drew some trepidation and perhaps a wobble around my middle.

But the The Flyaway Girls is a well paced story for young girls aged between ten and fourteen. I read it one sitting. It flows beautifully like a rhythmic ribbon touching on the nature of friendship, competiveness and self-acceptance.

Chelsea is a devoted hard working gymnast who at the ripe old age of eleven has to work out although hard working and dedicated she is not naturally gifted or exceptionally talented. She does not have the right stuff. Chelsea is steaming mad when an untrained new comer Telia, apparently rips her dream position on the coveted National team from her grasp.

Chelsea’s focus becomes so intense and driven that it begins to cause her all sorts of problems particularly with her friendships and family.

Her obsession to get to the Olympics over rides life. The competitive nature of sport and coaching is called into question.

After a knee injury, she is rude to her two friends, Rosie and Gemma who don’t understand her ambition and single mindedness. They are devoted to their musical instruments but choose to enjoy it and take a more moderate approach.

Meanwhile, Chelsea’s Dad has chosen to live in Canberra with his new partner and that’s got to hurt. In fact, it is revealed that Chelsea channels her negative feelings to overcome her fear of the vault. It’s a tip she gives Telia who is having problems with this one piece of equipment.

Telia is a naturally adept at all sports but doesn’t have that drive and prefers to have fun. Ironically, it is in Telia’s company that Chelsea enjoys herself but the green-eyed monster gets in the way and bridges have to be built.

It’s all pretty intense and a little bit alarming that by the end of primary school the girls have worked out their limitations and accepted them. Telia drops out to enjoy the next sport and Chelsea realises she is great at supporting and teaching gymnastics. The two combine their skills and zest for fun to come up with The Flyaway girls, their dance gymnastic display rocks the end of the year concert and a compromise is found.


The themes of the natural verses the hard worker, of self-acceptance and seeing where you fit into the big picture of things are well drawn and totally accessible and relevant to the young pre/teen girl.

Reviewed by Paula Hayes, Creative Kids Tales

The Flyaway Girls: what Wendy thinks

From Good Reading magazine, February 2016

Four stars

‘… In Chelsea we see a character who is determined and goal-oriented to the point of obsession. It’s the sort of drive that an elite athlete needs, but sometimes, no matter how hard the person words, the goal isn’t achieved. We feel Chelsea’s distress when her dream is shattered. But we’re also delighted when she learns that family and friends should never take second place to their own ambitions. It’s a story for those of us with dreams and for those of us who live with someone who has a driven personality.’

Wendy Noble

Bye, Beautiful and places in the sun

Writing can seem like a lot of effort for little reward.  Your books (if you’re lucky enough to get published in the first place) might be ignored, go out of print, drop off the radar (or never be picked up by the beacon in the first place), or date too quickly (I believe I mentioned a phone box in my first novel, just as one example).  Now there is a whole new level of uncertainty with the demise (they say) of the bookshop and the unknown quantity of the ebook.

I am therefore more than usually gratified that Bye, Beautiful, six years after its release, is still getting attention like this.

Also, I spoke at John Curtin College of the Arts last week, and was presented with a range of remarkable interpretations of Bye, Beautiful, like these:

In other news, I recently drove 2000kms with an old school friend to visit another old school friend on her mango farm.  It reminded me of how important high school is, despite its limitations or otherwise – and regular readers of this blog will know I haven’t always been inclined to speak fondly of my alma mater – and particularly the importance of those formative friendships.

I also learned that I’m a pretty good shot with one of these:

And that fanging around on one of these in the dunes is about as much fun as there is: