By Erin GoughYoung AdultHardie Grant Egmont

Amelia Westlake

From Ampersand Prize-winning author Erin Gough comes this ferociously funny romp through an elite private school, and a brilliant feminist hoax that could change – or ruin – everything.

Harriet Price has the perfect life: she’s a prefect at Rosemead Grammar, she lives in a mansion, and her gorgeous girlfriend is a future prime minister. So when she decides to risk it all by helping bad-girl Will Everhart expose the school’s many ongoing issues, Harriet tells herself it’s because she too is seeking justice. And definitely not because she finds Will oddly fascinating.

Will Everhart can’t stand posh people like Harriet, but even she has to admit Harriet's ideas are good – and they’ll keep Will from being expelled. That’s why she teams up with Harriet to create Amelia Westlake, a fake student who can take the credit for a series of provocative pranks at their school. 

But the further Will and Harriet’s hoax goes, the harder it is for the girls to remember they’re sworn enemies – and to keep Amelia Westlake’s true identity hidden. As tensions burn throughout the school, how far will they go to keep Amelia Westlake – and their feelings for each other – a secret? 

Perfect for fans of David Levithan and Becky Albertalli, this triumphant queer YA rom-com explores politics, privilege and power, and has a gloriously uplifting teen romance at its heart.

Portrait of Erin Gough

Erin Gough

Erin Gough is a Sydney-based writer whose first YA novel, The Flywheel, won Hardie Grant Egmont's Ampersand Prize. The Flywheel was published in the US as Get it Together, Delilah! and in Germany, and was shortlisted for the CBCA's Book of the Year for Older Readers and the Centre for Youth Literature’s Gold Inky. It was also named a White Raven International Youth Library title. Her second YA novel, Amelia Westlake, was published in 2018.

Erin’s award-winning short stories have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies including Best Australian Stories, the Age, Overland, Southerly and Going Down Swinging. Erin is a past recipient of the Varuna Eleanor Dark Flagship Fellowship for Fiction and an Australian Society of Authors Mentorship.

Judges’ report

Dealing with some incredibly topical and relevant issues of the #MeToo era in a witty and warm romantic comedy, Amelia Westlake combines complex social issues and heavy-hitting themes with a light touch and an engaging screwball narrative.

Will (Wilhelmina) and Harriet team up under the fake identity Amelia Westlake to protest injustices at their elite private girls school, Rosemead Grammar. Beginning with a satirical cartoon exposing the sexual harassment of students by a notorious sports coach, Will and Harriet’s efforts soon expand to tackle privilege, class inequality, entitlement, sexism and homophobia. As Amelia Westlake takes on a life of her own, cool renegade Will and rule-abiding golden girl Harriet battle to align their values, hold onto their anonymity, and keep their growing attraction to each other under control.  

Amelia Westlake is an exceptional novel that portrays flawed and layered queer teenagers stumbling towards self-awareness and a blossoming relationship in an authentic and refreshing way. The writing is delightfully sharp, with a distinctive voice and personality that shines through on every page. The novel manages to be both weighty and thoughtful, while remaining humorous, heartfelt and hopeful.

Extract

I adore my Modern History class. It is one of the absolute highlights of my week. Today’s class is especially wonderful because we are discussing Defining Moments.

‘History is about turning points,’ Ms Bracken explains. ‘I want each of you to share with us one big event that has influenced your life.’

We go around the room.

‘When I learnt to read,’ says Eileen Sarmiento.

‘When I got my platinum credit card,’ says Millie.

‘My first ski trip to Aspen,’ says Beth.

Then it is my turn. ‘In all honesty? My Defining Moment was when I first set foot on the grounds of Rosemead Grammar.’

A few loud groans and sick noises come from predictable corners. Apparently it is ‘in vogue’ to be critical of this school and the opportunities we have as students here. I think this is basically a very ungrateful attitude given the fees our parents pay, especially since not everyone’s parents are lucky enough to be mouth surgeons like both of mine are.

The truth is, I owe a heck of a lot to Rosemead. If you said: ‘Harriet Price, please name three reasons why your life is great,’ I would answer firstly that it is difficult to isolate just three reasons, because there are so many reasons why my life is great! Then I would tell you the top three excellent aspects of my life, all of which are Rosemead-related:

  1. My marks (distinction average).
  2. Being on the brink of winning the Tawney Shield Senior Girls Tennis Doubles, something I have been working towards for almost six years (i.e. one-third of my life).
  3. Having Edie Marshall, future prime minister of Australia, as my girlfriend.

People think I’m exaggerating when I say Edie will be prime minister one day, but I am definitely not. Not only is she the captain of Blessingwood Girls, our sister school, she is also a talented sportsperson and the best school-age public speaker in New South Wales. This has been formally recognised by three statewide competitions in which she won first place last year: SpeakOut (topic: ‘democracy is the best form of government’), SpeakEasy (topic: ‘fashion victims I have known’) and SaySomething (topic: ‘discipline is not a dirty word’). After she blitzes the exams this year she is going to go to university and get a Rhodes Scholarship. And when she comes back from Oxford she will enter politics and everyone will vote her in because she is incredible.

I would have never met Edie if it weren’t for the Tawney Shield. We have both been playing in the competition since year nine. This year, Edie and I are competing as a team in the Doubles competition against different school groups. This is perfect for us since we are a) ranked in the top players at Blessingwood and Rosemead respectively, which are in the same school group, and b) happen to be going out.

Interesting fact: my mother won the shield when she was at Rosemead, as did my grandmother. They like to tease that if I don’t win this year I’ll be ex-communicated from the family!

After Modern History, I find myself at a bit of a loose end. While Edie and I usually train on Tuesday afternoons, today Edie is hosting a Blessingwood fundraising afternoon tea for refugees. I would ordinarily make my way home, but Arthur, my little brother, jams with his band at home on Tuesdays, and although they are nice guys the music gives me a headache. So when the final bell rings I collect my things from my locker and head across to the staff building to find Ms Bracken.

Ms Bracken relies on me a lot because she knows how diligent and responsible I am. She suffers from arthritis and a few other degenerative diseases, so I like to assist her with odd jobs when I can. When I reach her office, I find her struggling with a PowerPoint presentation (Ms Bracken is far from technologically savvy). I offer to lend a hand.

‘It’s perfectly fine, Harriet,’ she says, bent over a paper-strewn desk that I am tempted to help her tidy: that level of mess can bring on one of my migraines. ‘Thank you, but I don’t need your assistance.’

This is exactly the response I anticipated. Ms Bracken always feels so guilty about taking up my time. ‘Don’t give it a second thought, Ms B. I happen to have a free window this afternoon.’

‘But I don’t. I’m on detention duty.’ She gathers her books.

‘Oh. Well, I’m sure we can do the presentation and monitor the detention students at the same time.’

‘I don’t know about that.’ She hurries down the hallway. ‘There’s only one student in detention and she’s in your year. I think that would be awkward.’

‘That’s kind of you, Ms Bracken,’ I pant. For someone with arthritis she is walking at a startling pace. ‘But I’m used to this kind of thing.’ It’s true. As a prefect I constantly have to monitor the behaviour of other students, including those in year twelve. I can’t exactly tell off a year-seven girl for failing to wear a regulation Rosemead hair ribbon and not do the same to someone in my own year.

‘Awkward for her, I mean,’ Ms Bracken says.

‘The presentation will be done twice as quickly with me helping.’ I follow her into the detention room.

I hear Ms Bracken sigh quietly. ‘Good afternoon, Will,’ she says.

That is when I see Will Everhart sitting at the very back of the room, slouched over a notebook.

Oh dear. After what happened at the pool this morning, I really could have done without encountering her again today. She seemed terribly put out when I didn’t defend her to Miss Watson.

I was not comfortable with what Coach said to Ruby. Ruby was clearly upset, and understandably so. But I am sure he was only trying to make a joke, albeit one in poor taste. Anyway, how could I possibly have taken Will’s side? I am Coach’s chosen representative on the school’s Sports Committee. An incredible honour. And as a prefect I am duty-bound to uphold the authority of Rosemead’s staff.

Will Everhart’s problem is that insolence is her trademark. She is one of those girls who thinks asymmetrical haircuts are the definition of ‘edgy’ and who takes every opportunity to show her disrespect for teachers. I personally will never forget our Food Technology class in year ten when Mrs Lavender taught us how to cook pad thai with prawns. After everyone agreed it was the most delicious meal of their lives (it was important to be nice to Mrs Lavender that year. Her husband had just left her for a hand model), Will Everhart launched into a story about how prawn trawling kills kilos of unwanted fish that are accidentally scooped up by the nets. She finished by saying we were all morally obliged to be vegetarian, before scraping the contents of her plate into the bin.

That is just the type of impertinent person Will Everhart is.

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist