You never get a second chance to make a first impression, which is why they matter. Bit that is not to say that they are always correct. It is also why, I like to think, it takes a special kind of person to first recognise that they were wrong. Then perhaps, most importantly, after that recognition comes the public admission.

That is why I must admit that I got my first impression of Homesick by Jennifer Croft wrong.

At first, I did not get Croft’s style. It felt like I had received the notes for what would eventually become a novel. My error of judgement was the result of my expectation that this coming-of-age story would be in a conventional novel style.

My expectation was that a narrator would be recounting the story of the main character or that the main character would be tell the story as if they were reflecting on the events of their life. Both styles would benefit from hindsight.

What Jennifer Croft has done is tell the story of the main character Amy, in what might be real time. She develops her story in a series of short, sometimes just a single page, chapters that feel at times like diary entries.
At the start of the book the language used has the feeling of the language that a child might use. As time passes and the character develops the language used to describe the story also develops.

It is an approach that I am not familiar with, an approach which at first jarred, but as I persisted, I admit I started to understand Amy more and to feel more of the complexities of her character that are between the lines.
Homesick is a story of two sisters, the elder Amy who is the main character is a prodigy who will go to university early, whilst her sister Zoe suffers from a mysterious illness that limits her life and threatens to limit her sister as well.

In Homesick there is a cornucopia of the usual coming-of-age experiences. The sort of things that have been the mainstay of books, films and TV drama since the genre began, but Croft adds two distinct aspects which take her higher to a higher level.

Coming-of-age is about the loss of innocence. Not just the physical changes of puberty or the emotional disruptions that a first teenage crush creates. As well as these Croft takes events which made global headlines and discusses them in terms of their impact on Amy and her family, exploring how they impact Amy’s own loss of innocence and coming-of-age.

Then Croft explores the realisation that coming-of-age is not just about new experiences or the loss of innocence, but also and perhaps equally the acceptance of responsibility for yourself and others.

Homesick is an entertaining read, but also challenging, because no matter what age we might be we always benefit from the occasional reminder that being an adult, being of age is not just about the entitlements that we believe are ours, or being allowed to make our own decisions, but also how being a real grown-up is about accepting the many responsibilities of adulthood.