Lawrinson, Julia 1969-
LAWRINSON, Julia 1969-
PERSONAL: Born September 21, 1969, in Perth, Australia; married John Farrell (an angling teacher), May 24, 2003; children: Annie. Education: Murdoch University, graduate diploma of education, 1998; Edith Cowan University, B.A. (with honors), 1999, cousework toward Ph.D.
CAREER: Edith Cowan University, Western Australia, tutor in literature, drama, and children's literature; teacher of English as a second language, 1993—. State Literature Centre of Western Australia, chair.
AWARDS, HONORS: Western Australia Premier's Award for Young-Adult Writing, 2001; Centenary Medal, 2003.
Obsession, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Fremantle, Western Australia), 2001.
Skating the Edge, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Fremantle, Western Australia), 2002.
Loz and Al, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Fremantle, Western Australia), 2003.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Suburban Freak Show.
SIDELIGHTS: Julia Lawrinson told CA: "After being permanently suspended from a State high school in Western Australia at the age of fifteen, I spent the remainder of my teenage years on the fringes of society. By the time I was twenty, I had worked in a country roadhouse, in numerous supermarkets and at a cinema, as well as having spent time in two psychiatric hospitals. These things developed my critical eye and gave me a take on the world that was decidedly left-of-centre. The Australian writer David Malouf once said that if you lived to the age of twenty, you possess enough material to write for sixty years. I believe that if your life is unconventional, you could probably stretch that to a hundred.
"I write mainly for teenagers because the things I write about match the intensity of teenage experience. From a technical point of view, you can't hedge, waffle or fake it in YA lit, because your audience will spot it and call you on it straight away. I love the impassioned responses I get from readers: when someone tells you that you've made them re-examine everything in their lives, it's a precious thing."
In Lawrinson's first young-adult novel Obsession, fifteen-year-old Charlie has moved to a new school, and is alternately bullied by the older students and dismissive of those who would befriend her. This situation offers little comfort to the daughter of an alcoholic mother with an intolerable new boyfriend. Being a part of the school play is the only bright spot in Charlie's new life, and as rehearsals progress, she becomes entranced by the beauty and talent of fellow drama student Kate. Charlie's feelings for Kate, expressed in the diary that provides the novel's narrative, continue to grow until she realizes that she has fallen in love. Although the reader will recognize Charlie's feelings before Charlie herself does, according to Helen Purdie in Magpies, the girl's feelings are "handled sympathetically and touchingly, even with humour."
Purdie also praised the skill with which Lawrinson populates her fictional world. Charlie's new friends Julie and Milka are fully realized, interesting characters in their own right, Purdie noted, and Lawrinson's depiction of bullies Arron and Macca are "chillingly accurate." Authenticity and passion are two qualities Lawrinson values highly in young-adult literature, as she told CA, and the language she uses in Obsession reflects this commitment. According to Purdie, while the book's slang is occasionally harsh, it is always justified by the context, as are the novel's references to sexuality and illicit drug use. While Barbara Jo McKee, writing in Kliatt, dubbed Obsession "a touching account of a doomed relationship," Purdie found the book more intense than that, calling it "one for the mature young adult who enjoys realism."
Lawrinson's second young-adult novel, Skating on the Edge, partially set in an adolescent psychiatric hospital, was described by Brett D'Arcy in West Australian as "an imaginatively conceived and skillfully executed novel by an author who obviously has a big future ahead of her." Caitlin, the teenaged narrator of the story, is asked to piece together answers after her friend's suicide. D'Arcy noted, "Lawringson manages to imbue her prose with a strong sense of warmth and passion and, above all, purpose." Viewpoint's Ruth Starke commented, "One of the strengths of Skating on the Edge is its affectionate portrayal of friendship," adding that "The story rips along at a great pace with occasional flashes of humour and the end is particularly satisfying."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kliatt, November, 2001, Barbara Jo McKee, review of Obsessions, p. 16.
Magpies, July, 2001, Helen Purdie, review of Obsessions, p. 41.
Viewpoint, spring, 2002, Ruth Starke, review of Skating the Edge, p. 31.
West Australian, August 24, 2002, Brett D'Arcy, review of Skating the Edge.