Alcohol and social media and the desire to conform: ‘Saving Jazz’


Mate, after reading this I’m glad I’ve finished High School. Compelling and chest-huggingly confronting. Sickening actions with terrible repercussions. This book isn’t shy. It’s on a mission. But fear not – it also has the poise to end positively without a whiff of cheddar or colby. And it absorbed me.

‘Saving Jazz’ by Kate McCaffrey tells the tale of a drunken party gone wrong and its painful aftermath. It has a level of clarity that only comes from a combo of great writing and clever and careful editing – bravo Fremantle Press. The part of me that’s a mum was rocking in the corner muttering, ‘Home-schooling, home-schooling.’ The part of me that’s planning to be a Science teacher was setting her jaw, more determined to take the path already chosen, but also a little terrified.

The ways kids treat each other in this book, the perils of social media – where the mistakes you make stick around and reproduce like blowflies to haunt you wherever you go. The pressures to conform. Ouch. The Main Character, Jazz, is smart and she knows the stereotypes being pushed onto her are wrong, but she still follows them.

Despite my earlier protestations about the sexualisation of us, the desire to look hot conflicted badly with my feelings about the way boys treated us. (p 58)

It’s also a slap in the proverbial face for parents. Jazz’s parents are dysfunctional, detached. The wake-up call for them is harsh and way too late:

‘I’m in serious trouble, Mum.’ I wanted her to hold me, comfort me. I wanted her to stroke my hair like she did when I was little and fell over, or lost my bear Binky, but instead she stared at me. She stared at the makeup I wasn’t supposed to wear at school. She stared at the top button, which was undone on my uniform. She stared at my rolled-up skirt, my waxed and spray-tanned legs. She stared at the horns growing out of my head. She stared at me as if I was a stranger, and then she put her hands to her face and she cried. (p 122)

Three cheers and a standing ovation to Aunty Jane and Uncle Rob, the balance this book needed to show the impact positive parenting and empathy can make. If you’re a parent, read this book and think about how much you know about your kids. How you can prepare them to make balanced choices. Think about how you treat people. Think about the actions you’re modelling.

If you’re a kid, read this book and just think, ‘What if?’ Because one of the beauties of books is the option to read them and live vicariously through the actions of the characters within. And believe me, you don’t want to actually do what the main characters do at the start of this novel.

Reach out. Push back. Respect yourself. Respect your friends.

Don’t make the mistakes Jazz makes. Don’t follow the path Jack takes. And please, don’t choose the solution Annie chooses. Because, to quote Jazz:

… I’m happy to say that nothing is unsalvageable, that with time things do improve and sometimes your biggest weaknesses can become your greatest strengths. (p 296)

A brave and powerful book that needed to be written. Well done.

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