Royals by Tegan Bennett Daylight is a unique and compelling YA story about a group of Australian teens (plus one baby) who find themselves stuck inside a large shopping centre. As time passes, it becomes clear that they are unable to leave, but that there is no one else there besides their group.
The food court mysteriously replenishes food and drink every night. Their phones don’t work, but they discover DVDs and CDs. There’s a gym and a cinema and store full of beds. They have access to every shop in the centre and everything they take off the shelves replenishes by the next morning. Days pass and they bond together, taking care of the baby, learning about each other and the thing they’ve each lived through, what their lives were like before they came to the shopping centre. They have everything they could ever want. But is it enough?
Daylight has captured the particular moments and culture of being a teen in modern Australia, especially in suburban Sydney. And the setting of a shopping centre that has everything they need but can never leave is just sinister enough to have the reader slightly worried through the story. But the characters and their development is what the narrative is really about, and that’s what makes it so compelling.
At first they are wary of each other, some vaguely knowing the others from school and so on. Then they settle into a sort of hierarchy, their friendships driven by necessity and ordered as they would be in any normal situation. But as they spend more time together, they break down the barriers that they have put up while growing into adolescence, and really get to know each other on a fearless, authentic level. The author has drawn thorough and believable arcs for each character and, by the end of the book, readers will be deeply invested in all of them.
This is an interesting and unusual read that is thoroughly enjoyable, both for teens and adults. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys well thought-out character arcs and coming of age stories, or has ever wondered what they might do while stuck inside a magically-replenishing shopping centre with no tomorrow…
Royals by Tegan Bennett Daylight
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: 3 May 2023