Published by Allen & Unwin on 4th January 2016
Boffins, Dymocks, Booktopia
Surf-loving Heidi impersonates her horse-mad twin to help Harper get a scholarship to attend the much sought-after agricultural school in this rural romance from Australia's queen of teen, Kaz Delaney. Suitable for teen readers of Rachael Treasure.
Harper Gage has won the opportunity of a lifetime - ten days at Winmaroo Jillaroo and Jackaroo school. The camp could give her the recommendation she needs to go to the exclusive Agricoll for years 11 and 12. But when an accident leaves Harper hospitalised, her twin sister, Heidi, goes in her place. The only problem is that Heidi is not much of a country girl - not like her sister. And to make life even more complicated, her sister's biggest rival Trent is going to be there. Will she be able to fool him?
And then the reality of the school hits Heidi hard. It's all dust, snakes and heat - a million miles away from the surf she loves. When she meets the fun and handsome Chaz, life at the school suddenly doesn't seem so bad, although with Trent acting up and trouble brewing with the other students, Heidi's not sure how long she can keep her identity secret. And if her secret is revealed, will Chaz ever be able to trust her again?
The Reluctant Jillaroo was probably one of the cutest books I’ve read in a long time. Perfect because I’ve just moved to New South Wales, have always been a bit horsey (still mad my parents never let me do riding lessons as a child), and enjoy a good bit of whodunnit, The Reluctant Jillaroo had a bit of everything in it that made for a great light read.
Surf loving city girl Harper Gage inadvertently caused the accident that left her twin sister, Heidi, in hospital, and out of a placement in one of the the best jillaroo camps in Australia, thus ending her chances of getting into a prestigious agricultural school in New South Wales. So the twins come up with a plan – Harper will spend the ten days pretending to be Heidi, Heidi’ll get a reference and (fingers crossed) get into ag school, Harper will feel less guilty about injuring her twin and everything will be dandy.
Of course, as life goes, it’s not quite all sunshine and roses.
What I love about this book is that it’s quintessentially Australian without being stereotypical in the character’s behaviours and traits. It read like a rural romance for young teenagers (and as a “city” girl myself, I love rural romance). I felt like I was right there alongside Heidi – er, Harper – as she went on this crazy adventure pretending to be her sister. While it’s definitely aimed at younger teen readers, which means the language and tone of Harper was at times a bit grating (“Holy Batman”, one of Harper’s catch phrases, got old quickly), I think this has a great wider appeal to older teens and adults as well.
Of course, thrown in was a splash of romance – Chaz was adorable, and I loved the budding romance between him and Harper – which gave Harper the moral dilemma of was she doing the right thing. It was definitely a learning experience for her, and as a 15 year old she matured quite a lot through the course of the book too. The sub plot of items mysteriously disappearing was a great addition as well, and I thought rounded out the novel.
I would love young adult rural romance to become a thing here, it would definitely be right up my alley, and I hope Delaney explores the world she’s created (Harper and Trent’s adventures, maybe?) in forthcoming books!