Growing up there wasn’t a lot of young adult literature written for Aboriginal readers such as Nukunu person Jared Thomas.

Now a writer himself, Mr Thomas is all about creating a space for young Indigenous readers to see themselves in.

His new YA novel, My Spare Heart, showcases a contemporary Indigenous main character, Phoebe who has a deep connection to her culture.

Thomas said it was his own experience as a teenager which made him want to write YA fiction.

“I started writing when I was very young and for me having exposure to Aboriginal writing and performance or theatre, as a sixteen year old was really life changing,” he said.

“Young adult literature in Australia is really developing, but certainly when I was a kid, there wasn’t young adult literature written for Aboriginal readers.

“When you’re a teenager or in your early 20s, it’s such a transformative time.

“And if people can engage with a book where they’re learning things about our people and culture, that can really set up their relationship with Aboriginal people and communities for life.”

The main character of his novel, seventeen year old Phoebe is juggling moving from the city to the country. Her non-Indigenous mum and Indigenous dad have recently split and Phoebe feels like she’s pulled between two worlds.

Thomas said he wanted to create a main character who challenged Aboriginal stereotypes.

“When I’m looking at Aboriginal people or characters, I try to make them as I know Aboriginal people to be,” he said.

“Many of us are very contemporary people who have a deep connection to our culture and practice our culture as best we can.

“So with Phoebe, I wanted to show you how she is this cool young thing, who is quite confident and she’s out there in the world but her Aboriginal culture and her culture is really important to her.”

Thomas said sport became an important facet of Phoebe’s character especially after working with basketball player, Ynunga man Patty Mills.

“After working with Patty on the Game Day series, I just wanted to reinforce how important participating in sport can be in helping to deal with stress and anxiety and something that keeps you happy and grounded,” he said.

“Particularly for Aboriginal readers, that it’s ok to be interested in all aspects of life that are available to them.

“You can do that while having a really strong connection to your culture.”

Thomas said the main theme of the novel, addiction, came about as a way to dispel the myths surrounding Aboriginal people and alcohol.

“One of the inspirations for writing the book was dispelling myths regarding Aboriginal people and alcohol abuse,” he said.

“I’ve known lots of people who have been severely affected by someone who has a problematic relationship with alcohol in their lives, and this is Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike.

“The book is for people who are affected by an alcoholic in their life, for them to know they’re not alone and that there is support available for them.”

My Spare Heart is now available for purchase. Thomas will be appearing at Melbourne Writers Festival in September 2022.