Friday Never Leaving

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Friday Never Leaving Book Poster Image
Gut-wrenching tale of grieving runaway is edgy, lyrical.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teens will learn a few broad strokes about Australian culture and geography.

Positive Messages

Friday's past was pretty unstable, and the mental and physical landscapes she now navigates are pretty bleak. She thinks she can  find answers only within herself, but she also knows that her past, friends, and family make up part of who she is and provide a well she can draw from. She ultimately realizes that she's made it through the most painful part of growing up (finding out your parents are flawed), and there's some hope in knowing she's now equipped to face whatever the future might bring.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Friday's drifter mother, Vivienne, whose lifestyle might leave something to be desired, loves Friday unconditionally and conveys it unconventionally. She teaches Friday resilience under tough circumstances and to not be afraid to make a decision or try something: Even wrong turns help you become who you are. Friday is an ambiguous role model. She's committed or abetted crimes, but feels badly about them and finds a way to avoid repeating them. Her anger and desire for revenge bring her to brink of murder. The only other adults are an absent grandfather who comes through in unexpected ways, and the male leader of the runaway gang, who seems to be in his early 20s and is a menacing figure. Friday's runaway friends present a wide range of positive and negative behaviors.


The introduction includes Vivienne telling Friday all the horrible ways in which the women of the family have died for the past three or four generations. Members of the gang of runaways sometimes hit one another other like siblings, and leader Arden hits and punches them to maintain discipline. Blood from injuries is described, from minor scrapes to severe beatings, and infrequently violent imagery is used ("water was seeping like dark blood"). Friday sees the innumerable scars on her friend Silence that reveal past abuse. The details are left to the reader's imagination, but the horror is palpable. Drowning is described graphically, and Friday almost kills someone violently and deliberately.


Sexual incidents are infrequent but powerful and emotionally sophisticated. Gang leader Arden and alpha male Malik use their sexual relationship to assert dominance and control over the group. In one incident they look directly at Friday while "Arden's hand moved in his [Malik's] jeans." Their naked bodies are mentioned but not described, seen entwined on a mattress. Arden also uses sexual behavior to test her ability to dominate Friday, giving her a shoulder rub that ends with Arden cupping Friday's breast. One of the runaways makes money as a prostitute. Friday makes out with Wish once, with some deep kissing and feeling above the waist. There are two or three kisses on the cheek, including an especially moving one when Friday learns about platonic love.


Friday's narration doesn't include strong language, but dialogue among the tough street kids does.  "S--t," "f--k," "f---ing," are most frequent. Name calling includes "dyke," "bitch," and "numb nuts," each used once. "Piss" is used twice and the regional variant "arsehole" for "a--hole" is used once. Some Australian vocabulary is used that might be unfamiliar, like "swag," "bulldust," and "jerry can," but they're minor things and easy to figure out from the context. 


Maglite and Doritos each mentioned once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The gang of runaways, whose ages range from about 11 to 17, frequently drink beer, sometimes to excess. Narrator Friday doesn't always join in and when she does it's not to excess and she doesn't really like it. Once the gang gets into a nightclub and the kids drink hard alcohol to excess and with negative consequences, except Friday who sticks to beer. Most of the characters are depicted smoking at one time or another, with Arden smoking most frequently. It's assumed that as part of his job as a bouncer Malik deals drugs, but none is depicted and no one really knows exactly what he does while he's absent.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Friday Never Leaving is a bleak and unblinking look at life and loss. Seventeen-year-old narrator Friday Brown loses her mother to cancer early in the book and her grief is powerfully conveyed throughout the book. Another main character dies tragically. Runaway teens drink, smoke, and swear ("s--t," "f--k," "f---ing"), and some commit crimes such as theft and prostitution to earn money. Blood is described frequently, and a few violent incidents (beatings, a drowning) are graphically described. Some of the most horrible, though, are seen only by the scars left behind yet are no less horrifying. Sexual relationships are very sophisticated. Teens who haven't yet experienced mature sexual relationships may not fully understand what's going on, but they'll be exposed to some powerful aspects of sexuality and may need some guidance. Despite the dark subject matter, all is not gloom and doom: Vikki Wakefield's writing is lyrical, and there's hope in the choices Friday ultimately makes.

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What's the story?

Struggling to cope with her grief after her mother dies, 17-year-old Friday Brown runs away and is taken in by a gang of runaways living on the street. Friday grew up always on the move from one place to another, and can't decide how deeply to let herself into her new friends' lives. Once she's in, it's clear that her relationship with the charismatic and manipulative leader Arden can't lead to any good. But she's also experiencing true friendship for the first time with some of the gang, and that won't be easy to leave behind, if she can get out at all.

Is it any good?

A dark story about a dark time in a young woman's life, FRIDAY NEVER LEAVING is emotionally wrenching. But Vikki Wakefield's mesmerizing, lyrical prose makes it a journey worth taking. She vividly evokes mood from city and outback landscapes alike, and has a Dickensian flair for colorful characters. Friday's natural narrative voice never intrudes, taking the reader on her heartbreaking journey to a place, and a state of mind, she can call home.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about grief. Can you imagine someone making terrible decisions in response to a death? Have you known anyone who started to act differently or take up with a different crowd after a life-changing loss?

  • What do you think about the level of violence in Friday Never Leaving? Is it essential to the storytelling? How does it add to the realism?

  • Why are some teens drawn to street gangs? Why would a runaway feel at home in a gang?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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