Walking on Trampolines by Australian writer Frances Whiting brings to life the sensation of being a teenager in love. For Tallulah de Longland, that love was two-fold, for not only did she find herself the object of affection of a cute boy one day, but she also was immediately branded “best friend” by a new girl in her school earlier that year. Adolescent relationships, whether they’re friendships or romances, often share many of the same traits, and in this case, both were intense and all-consuming, and both leaft a mark on her life that would never fade.
A trampoline makes for a good image related to adolescence– a whole lot of bouncing around on unsteady feet, with some fantastic highs and some crashing lows. For Tallulah, who goes by Lulu, many of the most significant highs and the lows of those years came courtesy of the relationships with her best friend, Annabelle, and her boyfriend, Josh. What began as two separate duos, soon became one blurry relationship, all three intertwined in the way that teenagers seem to be able to absorb each others’ lives. But what came next was something that most adult readers can easily foresee, for that intensity can be difficult to maintain and remain healthy. When the devastating crash came, Lulu became somewhat suspended in time, a delayed adolescence in place for several years. Even as she appeared to have an adult life, emotionally, she was still hurting and unable to move on.
But before readers even get to that back story, the prologue sets the stage in the present, and it does so in a surprising manner. The twist that it reveals in its final sentence puts the novel into motion, sometimes moving forward and sometimes looking back to the past, but always keeping readers close to Lulu and her ongoing challenge of trying to bounce back.
Two important and tender side stories involve Lulu and her family, along with the family of Annabelle, more relationships that have meaningfully overlapping effects on Lulu’s psyche. The ways in which Lulu’s immediate family deals with long term mental illness in a compassionate and loving manner, getting through the every day routines as best they can brought a serious and touching tone to her character. Juxtaposed with Annabelle’s family’s ways, a bigger picture is painted in which the characters’ strengths and faults become clear.
I quite enjoyed this novel, for the character of Lulu is open and candid, displaying her vulnerabilities for the reader, if not always for the people around her. As she takes steps toward an independent adult life, the cast expands to include varied characters who fulfill different needs in Lulu’s personal life, and all together, they provide a touching story of friendship, first loves, and growing up.