"JC Burke knows her characters so well... Starfish Sisters is no fluffy girl-power yarn." - The Age, October 14, 2007

Starfish Sisters


I loved surfing. It was the best. Once, I’d lived for it, but lately it had been getting too serious and I was starting to feel pressure. Pressure and me meant one thing – I started stuffing up. Big time. 

I flicked my hair a couple of times. It was still standing up beautifully. Everyone turned and I walked in smiling. I felt their eyes watching and their mouths dying to whisper, 'that’s Tim Parker’s girlfriend.’ You could’ve heard a pin drop. 

For a little while, I stood watching Kia’s chest rise and fall as she slept. How could she have done that? How could she have told the others those things about my mother? She knew nothing about me and my life. I hated her. Perhaps now I hated her more than she hated me. 

I could feel my fingernails digging into my palms, my fists were clenched so tight. But I liked the pain. I needed it. I deserved it. The pain was the only way to make the bad thoughts disappear. 

Four girls, Georgie (15), Ace (16), Micki (12) and Kia(14) each narrate a chapter of the story.


"Identity and the weight of expectations are also the central themes in Starfish Sisters." - from ‘Growing pains in small spaces, Sydney Morning Herald, Nov 10, 2007.

"This author skillfully writes for the 14 and over audience because she speaks their language... a story about real people and real problems." - Australian Bookseller and Publisher, september 2007.

"You have to wonder if JC Burke paddles out into the line-up herself she writes so well about being in the water." -  Inside A Dog, State Library of Victoria, 2007.

"An engaging and engrossing story filled with marvellous, flawed, real characters." - Sunday Tasmanian, October 7, 2007.

The Process 

When I was in the planning stages of 'Starfish Sisters', I couldn't decide which girl should be the narrator. The problem was each girl's story felt strong and I had an early sense of their personalities, so any of them would be a good narrator but would that mean the other girl's stories would be affected by not giving them a viewpoint? 

That was why I decided to write 'Starfish Sisters' in four separate voices, giving each girl a chapter to narrate in chronological order. 

As this story deals with secrets we have about ourselves and the way we want our friends to see us, this technique worked in the story's favour. 

Each character confides in the reader as to how they really feel about themselves and then the reader experiences the way the character 'presents' their public persona and sees how the two conflict. Also with this technique of four narrators, the reader gets the most information which provides the narrative drive. The narrator divulges a secret only to the reader – the reader keeps turning the pages as they want to find out how the other girls will react when the secret is made public. The reader also sees how easy it is to misinterpret, judge and jump to conclusions about people and situations. 

The challenge for me was to try and give a distinct sound to each girl's voice. This was tricky as the girls came from similar cultural, socio-economic environments plus shared the same passion, 'surfing.' I tried to make each girl's story strong enough in its own right, so that the reader could easily identify each narrator. There are further study notes/teaches resources at randomhouse.com.au/readingguides. Just follow the links. 

'Starfish Sisters' contains scenes involving self harm. Relevant numbers and websites are listed at the back of the book.

Song/s I played