The Edge of Thirteen
2 Mar. 2021
Paperback / softback
Clem Timmins can’t wait to see her best friends after being apart all summer holidays. But when they get back together, things have changed. Bridge is boy-crazy and acting like a different person. Ellie is wearing a bra and having a real-life romance. Clem feels left behind. When she makes friends with Tom, suddenly everyone’s gossiping about whether they’re going to be a couple. Clem’s got no interest in having a boyfriend. Or does she?
At school camp, Bridge crosses the line and Clem has to ask herself—can she keep growing up with her friends when they’re growing apart?
This story of fitting in and falling out perfectly captures how it feels to balance on the edge of who you are and who you want to be.
InformationBook Type: Junior High
Age Group: 11 years +
Traffic Lights: Green/Amber
Class Novel: Yes
Good Reads Rating: 5/5
Literary Rating: 5/5
Clem feels like she’s growing away from her friends Bridge and Ellie. They’ve returned from the holidays boy-crazy and hitting puberty, while Clem is still flat-chested and uninterested in boys. She’s also worried about being unpopular or uncool—she hangs around with her parents a lot outside of school, and running into one of the cool girls from her grade—Jacqs—while out to get ice-cream is so incredibly embarrassing she thinks she’ll never recover. Feeling smothered by her overprotective mother, Clem feels tension at home for the first time.
Then in Photography class, she makes friends with Tom, who sits next to her. He’s cute, and easy to talk to, and Bridge insists that he has a crush on Clem. Meanwhile, as Bridge makes Clem more insecure and uncomfortable, she’s striking up an unlikely new friendship with intimidating Jacqs, who gives her a new perspective: as a child of a broken home, she’s jealous of the relationship Clem has with her parents.
Things come to a head on school camp, when Clem kisses Tom—only for him to tell her that he’s gay. But once she gets past her initial embarrassment, she realises that with the pressure of getting into a relationship taken off, she feels much more comfortable just being friends. But she’s angry at Bridge for misleading her about Tom’s feelings and putting them both in an awkward situation.
In her anger, she lets Jacqs pierce her ears, which devastates Bridge as they had promised they’d get their second piercing done together. She sees this broken promise as a betrayal of their friendship. But the girls make up, as only best friends can, and Clem talks things out with her mum, reaching a new normal.
This book truly captures the keen awkwardness of teenage years. Loyalties, misunderstandings, and embarrassment colour all interactions with a strange tension. Clem’s effort to keep up with the others on social media shines a light on the problems teenagers face now, while her struggles with her mother are a tale as old as time. But ultimately, she discovers that the most important relationship—beyond her relationships with family and friends—is with herself.
Learning to express herself through photography, and be open about her love of plants and old music, Clem truly comes into herself over the course of the book. It’s an intensely relatable story, and a highly enjoyable read.
camping, coming of age, puberty, trust, identity, acceptance, relationships, families, love, forgiveness, fights, social media, controlling parents, photography, trees, school trips,
1. Mention of periods and breast size throughout,. Clem struggles with feeling she’s less “developed” than the other girls. Ellie tells Bridge and Clem that she kissed Sammy (p. 117). Clem kisses Tom (p. 160). Tom tells Clem he is gay (p. 165). 2. Jacqs pierces Clem’s ears with a needle (p. 187). 3. bitch x 1 (p. 220).
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