The Eternal Return Of Clara Hart

by Louise Finch

Published by Little Island

LOUISE Finch’s bold and honest young adult fiction debut proves a nuanced take on both subtle and overt misogyny all within the genre of science fiction. It stands out among other feminist works aimed at young people through a unique and telling perspective – that of an ordinary teenage boy.

While at first this may seem unusual, even counterproductive for the book’s themes, it succeeds in presenting them in a way that is even more poignant by showing how he slowly realises his own ingrained biases and the issues in the behaviours of his friends, taking the reader on that vital and impactful journey.

James Spence has been dreading this day for a long time, the first anniversary of the death of his mother, and as it goes on, it only gets worse. Clara Hart hits his car in the morning, appears at his best friend Anthony’s party and disappears to his room, and by the end of the night, she runs into the road and is killed.

He’s hit not only by grief for his mother, but for the outcast girl at school he once had a crush on. This is all painful enough, until it happens again.

Spence is stuck in one repeating day and he’s convinced the only way to get out of this loop is to prevent the death of Hart by interfering with all the little things in that day that may have caused her death.

With each attempt to fix these tragic events he learns more about Hart and the people around them, notices details in all that he can change about the loop, and the one frustrating event that seems to stay the same no matter what leads up to it.

Spence is forced to look at the world around him more critically, and in searching for anything that could help Hart, he finds so much more than he bargained for.

The habit of his friends, particularly Anthony, to rate the young women around them from one to five stars and to speak of the ones they like, and the ones they hate, almost exclusively sexually, suddenly comes to his attention. Where his friends don’t seem to care, he has to, as the only one aware of the horrors awaiting on this day.

More than a fast-paced novel with visible, realistic and necessary character growth that helps the reader move closer to understanding, The Eternal Return Of Clara Hart is a reflection on real life.

It is so often difficult to introduce young men to feminist concepts because they’re not directly relatable, but the character of Spence is one that should be brought to the attention of as many teenage boys as possible.

He considers himself to be normal, is never outwardly cruel and struggles with his own emotional issues. He never really treats women badly and doesn’t think about it much beyond that, yet never questions his friends who do.

While the content warning of references to sexual assault is important to mention, the way it is handled makes this story one I would recommend to teenagers everywhere.