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Submitted Literature

A Certain Age

By Rebecca Ray


Focusing on, and narrated through, the eyes of a 13-year old girl, the novel unflinchingly explores adolescent sexuality and exploitative relationships, deliberate self harm through cutting, drinking and drug taking in the context of peer-pressure and boredom. Notions of the adolescent struggle to find an identity that paradoxically rebels against the parental realm but blends in to the peer group are particularly frankly explored.  Emotion is articulated not vocally but through the carving of words (‘HATE’) into forearms and the slashing of skin in order to feel a tangible pain rather than intolerable and inexplicable emotional confusion.  A crucial text that reveals that which parents often turn away from.

Key Themes:

  • Childhood / Adolescence
  • Revealing Reads
  • Self-Injury

Significant Quotes / Pages

360 – “There was a single solid movement as he bought it down.  Sharp and cold and with more hatred in his eyes than I had ever seen.  Not for me, though. Only for himself.  And I cried out as I stumbled for him, kneeling through the space between us.

I cried out.

Because it hurts.  That’s why.  Because it hurts”

403 – “ ‘I’m sorry,’ I said.

It squeezed from my mouth. It hurt like being fucked hurt.  Inside me.

Mum’s shoulders shook, a single silent sweep.

I felt my own breath as Dad started to cry.

But I didn’t look away”

Reference: Rebecca, Ray. 1998. A Certain Age. London: Penguin, 1998


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Monday 23rd March 2009