Catch Me If I Fall by Barry Jonsberg

I love being surprised by a book. The blurb hints at what the story is about but it’s actually surprisingly different. Barry Jonsberg’s latest book, Catch Me If I Fall is one of these books. What at first seems like just a story about twins and an event that changes their relationship is actually much more complex.

Ashleigh and Aiden are identical twins who have always been there for each other. Aiden is protective of his sister and always looking out for her. They live a privileged life in a huge house in Sydney and attend a prestigious school. They are some of the lucky ones, with plenty of money to keep them fed, comfortable and safe. Australia has been ravaged by storms and rapidly rising seas, a result of catastrophic climate change. The majority of the population has been left homeless and clinging on to survival, while the wealthy live in mansions or compounds, protected by security services. When Ashleigh gets in to trouble while kayaking on a school camp Aiden comes to her rescue but suffers head injuries in the process. After the accident Ashleigh notices changes in Aiden. He starts acting and speaking differently, which worries Ashleigh. Little does Ashleigh know that these changes will lead to a shocking discovery that will turn her world upside down.

I was completely gripped by Catch Me If I Fall. It starts off as one kind of story and morphs into something completely different. There’s a lot packed into the story, from family dynamics to white privilege, climate change to ethics. It’s certainly not your average story about twins. Sure, there are family issues and the story does focus on Ashleigh and Aiden’s relationship, but the story is set against a background of climate change. Barry Jonsberg’s vision of a near-future Australia ravaged by climate change feels scarily possible. It’s certainly not far fetched to imagine the constant storms and rising sea levels that have caused the wide-spread destruction in the story.

My thoughts about the twist turned out to be correct but this didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the story. This just added another layer to the story and made me desperate to know how it would end. Wow, it’s really hard to explain what I like about this story without giving out spoilers!

Ashleigh certainly has a lot to deal with in the story. By the end, her idyllic life has been altered forever. Her family will never be the same and neither will she. She has lived most of her life sheltered from the reality of the world, and the truth of how most people live is shocking to her. I was quite tense following Ashleigh throughout the story and I found myself losing track of time as I had to keep reading to know how it would end. Barry certainly didn’t disappoint.

Catch Me If I Fall would make an amazing read aloud for Years 7-9 or as a novel set for this age group. The story is really engaging and lots of interesting discussion could be had about the issues involved. This book reminded me of how much I loved Barry Jonsberg’s earlier books and I now want to read all of his latest books.