The Year Nick McGowan Came To Stay By Rebecca Sparrow

The Year Nick McGowan Came To Stay
Written By Rebecca Sparrow
Contemporary, Coming of Age
Published June 1st 2006
208 Pages
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Seventeen year old Rachel Hill is the girl most likely to succeed. And the girl most likely to have everything under control... That is, until her dad invites Nick McGowan, the cutest boy at school, to live with them. Rachel worries that this could only be a recipe for disaster, but her best friend Zoe thinks it’s the perfect opportunity for lurve. Sparks start to fly for all the wrong reasons. Nick finds Rachel spoiled and uptight and Rachel dismisses Nick as lazy and directionless. But a secret from Nick’s past draws them together and makes the year Nick McGowan came to stay one that Rachel will never forget.
It's 1989, and Rachel Hill is about to learn how to live, courtesy of Nick McGowan.

Rachel is in her final year of school, she's seventeen and a girl that any parent would be proud of. She works part time as a clown, hosting parties for children. She's an attentive student, a caring friend and a straight laced Prefect, awarding punishments to her fellow students where she sees fit. And she's just been told that Nick McGowan is coming to stay. Nick is going to move into Caitlin's room for the rest of the school year, vacated by Rachel's sister who is studying in France. Her parents offering their home to the wayward teen,while Rachel has be allowed to move into the downstairs spare bedroom. In what can be seen as a bribe, with her own privacy, air conditioning and bathroom, but still isn't compensation for her new housemate seeing her bed hair first thing in the morning, her Fido Dido pajamas or that she enjoys tomato sauce on toast for breakfast.

According to best friend Zoe, this will be the perfect opportunity for Rachel to have sex, much to Rachel's disgust, she's just hoping to make it through the rest of the year unscathed. While the two are in the library seeking information to bring Nick down, who should catch them, but Nick himself. In a moment of stupidity and surprise, Rachel announces she has a boyfriend. Nick of course doesn't believe her and Zoe is delightfully entertained at Nick's amusement of Rachel's love of Huey Lewis and the News. Clearly this isn't the impression she was hoping to create, so Rachel decides to inject some coolness into her life and skips school for Brisbane's coolest independent record store. This is the new, delinquent, truant Rachel, the one who now owns two new Ramones posters and a new cassette tape. The only problem? Rachel hates The Ramones, and stares lovingly at her Bangles and Eurythmics tapes.
All Rachel needs to do is break up with pretend boyfriend Paul, ensure her parents stick to her list of not what to do in Nick's company and she should come out unscathed. But when it seems that Nick is too tall to squeeze into Caitlin's bed, he's given Rachel's new room. Her cool room with her new posters and air conditioning. But not to worry, Rachel's mum announces that she's already moved Rachel's things back upstairs, including her Kirk Cameron and Huey Lewis posters, to which now Nick hums Hip To Be Square and Rachel couldn't be more mortified.

But Nick's life isn't so great. After Rachel eavesdrops on a phone conversation, she makes it her business to help Nick find some direction in his life. The rumors around school have painted Nick as being suicidal, but Nick had a wake up call of the cruelest kind. He wants to live in the moment, something Rachel knows nothing about, but she's about to be taught that there is more to life than rules, regulations and taking advice from a psychic lettuce.

Kelly's Thoughts

Funniest. Book. Ever.

This book was one of the biggest surprises I've stumbled across so far. It was funny, heartwarming and funny. Yes, it was just that humorous I felt the need to mention it twice. I was nine years old in 1989 and the pop culture references throughout, helped me form a connection to the storyline and characters. Although some of Rachel's musical tastes are cringe worthy, back in the era, that's what the majority were listening to. Remembering Molly's death on A Country Practice, watching It's A Knockout, I absolutely loved reminiscing. Rachel's inner monologues are hilarious, but the real star is best friend Zoe. Some of the funniest lines in literature are courtesy of Rebecca Sparrow, and I'm an instant fan.

If you're an Aussie, thirty plus years old or remember the 1980's with a fondness, definitely add this one.


  1. WOW. I totally remember picking this book up over 5 years ago at a second hand bookstore and loving it! I was only 14 at the time, so I probably didn't get many of the 1989 references, but I remember still really enjoying it. Great post! :)

    1. Sadly, I understood all the bad 80's references and jokes. I was a 90's child, but it brought back the era so vividly. Have you read The Girl Most Likely? It was written before this one, but is Rachel as an adult. I'm having trouble finding it.


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