Middle Grade Review: The Year the Maps Changed

What a fabulous book.

Everything about this book grabbed me. The title, the cover and the setting – which happen to be a place I love and where I lived for many years of my life – The Mornington Peninsula.

The Year The Maps Changed is a middle grade (but could easily appeal to a YA audience, I felt) novel with a historical twist. It is about a young girl and her family and focuses on a part of history in Victoria that most people (ahem, like myself) had no idea about.

The story is set in 1999 in the seaside town of Sorrento and follows Fred, who has a tricky family and is just trying to find her place in it. Fred feels her life is spinning out of her control, and then an overseas crisis comes crashing into her world when a group of refugees are brought into a safe haven near her home.

The writing is great, it felt very real and the characters were super rounded. I like that Fred has complicated family dynamics, where her mother passed away a long time ago and she is raised by her step father (who for once, didn’t fall into the awful step parent trope – hooray!) . I think this works nicely against the background on the arrival of the refugees and makes it realistic that Fred would have so much sympathy and understanding for people who are as displaced as she feels sometimes. Bink’s shows this in such a great way that we all have our stories to tell, and each story has its highs and lows and important moments.

The main character is likeable and realistic and strong-willed. She always tries to make the right decisions, but has flaws and makes mistakes. She also has huge amounts of empathy and is dying to understand the plight of these people, and is in that awkward phase of wanting to grow up and help, but being too young to fully understand some things, and my heart really ached for her at times.

The Year The Maps Changed is beautifully written and basically a wonderful piece of storytelling. There were times I felt that it was a touch slow in the middle section, but that might be personal preference instead, and it is on the longer side for a middle grade novel. Mostly, I found it to be an inspiring and heartwarming story that is thought provoking, unique and one that is impossible to forget.

Title: The Year The Maps Changed

Author: Danielle Binks

Publisher: Lothian Children’s Books (Hachette)

Published: 2020

Ages: 12+


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