I'm not much of a cool girl and so I'd never heard of Rosie Waterland before I heard about this book. Happily though I saw her speak with Richard Glover at an event at Newcastle Writers Festial last month. I'm very glad I went to that session, and now very glad to have read my signed copy of Rosie's book.
I don't watch all that much tv, and when I do I don't watch The Bachelor, so would hardly have had any need for satirical recaps of it, which is coincidentally apparently how Rosie shot to internet stardom on Mamamia in 2014.
Stories like Rosie's don't get told all that often, not in memoirs at least. Movies maybe. But not in original, authentic first person voices. And it's a shame. Hers is an incredible story of survival against the odds, well told. Rosie grabs our attention from the get go- before she is even born.
Oh Rosie. Not even born yet, and already on the run. How exhausting. At a time when you should be concentrating on not growing an extra thumb, you're being tossed around in your mum's belly while she tries to jump-start an overheated hatchback by pushing it down a hill.
Of course that hill start is at 3am as her parents try to evade some "violent bikie drug dealers". Such is the chaos that Rosie is born into. Both her parents have mental illness and addictions to drugs and/or alcohol. Both of course have their own demons. Demons that often took up all of their energies, leaving next to nothing for their kids. Rosie and her sisters are often abandoned and left to fend for themselves.
Despite this Rosie is writing plays and Oscar acceptance speeches from a very young age. She endures despite living in rehab and with abusive foster parents. Eventually circumstance rescues her from her life only to give her an even worse life at the hands of rich kids at a boarding school. Rosie never faced bullying until she attend a posh, expensive boarding school on Sydney's North Shore.
Most chapters start with a killer hook to keep you reading. Both the chapter titles:
Your friends will find a dead body in the bush, and it will be your dad.
Your mum will be a sex worker, and you'll have no idea.
And then the first lines.
It's hard to keep up appearances when your mum hasn't been home in four days.
When a guy wearing nothing but a bedsheets as a toga pushes in front of you in the dinner line so he can get better dibs on the custard, you know you've hit rock bottom.
It is amazing how Rosie can make family dysfunction, drug addiction and unrelenting heartache funny, but she does. The Anti Cool Girl will not be for everyone. It is confronting at times (well on pretty much every page). It deals with addictions, mental illness, eating disorders and is particularly frank and sexually explicit. And there's quite a lot of poo. But it is an incredibly engaging journey to self acceptance, and if Rosie can accept, own and be proud of her story, then maybe we all can too.
I'm on a roll with great Aussie memoirs this year. Although this is the first one that I've actually read as a book. The others I have listened to as audiobooks. First the spectacular Reckoning (see my review). And then the fabulous Flesh Wounds (review coming soon-ish).