- Publication date:1 September 2012
- Genre: fiction
- Age guide: Older Readers, YA
By Michelle Heeter
A girl is found in the wreckage of a car crash. Severely injured and psychologically damaged, the girl cannot or will not tell the authorities who she is or where she comes from. Her carers call her ‘Len’, after the name embroidered on the jumper she was wearing when she was found.
Secretive, intelligent, and abrasive, Len is moved to a children’s shelter. Slowly, Len’s repressed memories fight their way to the surface of her troubled mind. And an evil figure from her shadowy past comes looking for her.
Cover designed by Grant Gittus.
‘Riggs Crossing’ was recommended to the audience at a recent youth publishing event I attended, where publishers showcased outstanding examples of teenage fiction for 2013. ‘Riggs Crossing’ does not disappoint, either.
Written by Michelle Renee Heeter, who grew up in the American mid-west before moving to Japan, then Sydney, the strength and authenticity of the voice of the main character within this book is extraordinary.
The book begins with a mystery – a teenage girl has been found with serious injuries as a result of a car crash. Who is she? Her identity is unclear – and if she knows she is not telling.
‘Len’ as she is called is now living in a youth refuge. Staying with her are other young people who have varying degrees of trauma from mostly horrendous upbringings. The minutiae of interpersonal relationships between Len and other housemates, youth workers and teachers makes for compelling though not always comfortable reading.
Len herself is an interesting personality – a person who looks to her favourite TV personality lawyer ‘Clarissa Hobbs’ as a mentor, then begins to write episodes in which she, Len, is really Clarissa’s long lost daughter!
Len is a likeable enough personality, though within the context of her home life Len can be as much of a bully as those around her.
Who can forget the couch fight scene where the new girl sits on the couch Len has designated as her own?
‘Get off my couch and don’t ever go near it again’ Len orders.
Len has flashbacks to her previous life before the accident and the reader becomes aware that she was in a dangerous family situation where drug taking and illegal activities were the norm.
As the story unfolds the past begins to catch up with Len.
Jenny Mounfield –
‘A girl is found in the wreckage of a car crash. Severely injured and psychologically damaged, the girl cannot, or will not tell the authorities who she is or where she comes from. Her carers call her ’Len’ after the name embroidered on the jumper she was wearing when she was found.’
Len’s story opens with a case summary written by her social worker. Through this prologue readers learn the circumstances leading up to her arrival at Sydney’s Inner West Youth Refuge. Progress reports, flashbacks and Len’s first-person impressions of day-to-day life at the refuge effectively make this three stories in one. As Len’s past story with her dope-growing dad develops it becomes evident she is a survivor. We see how and why she is outwardly able to cope with her troubled refuge-mates, while inwardly she battles both to remember and forget. However, when she has a chance meeting with a double-crossing, vengeful acquaintance of her father’s, the past becomes the present in all its remembered horror.
Generally speaking Heeter’s characterisation is good. Troubled teens, Cinnamon and Bindi are particularly life-like—as is Len. Plot-wise, the situation between Len and her father’s revenge-seeking mate, Terry, could have built to a nice heart-thumping climax, but unfortunately this failed to happen. Despite this, the story is resolved satisfyingly on its many levels.
At times reading like a reality TV script, Riggs Crossing will certainly appeal to the Big Brother generation. This is a human story, it’s raw, often ugly, but it’s honest, and in a world overflowing with deception, how ironic that fiction is one of the few places where truth can still be found.