2019 - Shortlisted
Between Us is an important and timely narrative that explores the lives of three people whose lives intersect directly and indirectly with Wickham Point Detention Centre. Ana is an Iranian asylum seeker who is allowed out of detention to attend school. There she meets Jono, a young bi-racial man who is dealing with his own problems, living with his father, Kenny. Jono’s Vietnamese father is the third narrator of this novel, trying to navigate the rules in his new job as a guard at the Detention Centre. As the connections between these three characters develop, their perspectives on the world begin to change.
Atkins’ strength is perhaps her characterisation, developing her characters in nuanced ways, each one offering insights that force readers to reflect on immigration and belonging in Australia. Stylistically the novel offers a blend of free verse and prose and the multi-perspectivity forces us to reflect upon the emotional states of characters as they chart their journeys through the novel. The tale is told with honesty, compassion and insight.