Annabel, Again

Published by Walker Books Australia, 2007, 2019

Ages 9-13-ish

Best friends aren’t supposed to go away.
And if they do, they’re most definitely not meant to come back.

When your best and only main friend since you were five moves away for ever and ever, leaving your life and your netball team in a state of crisis, there’s only one thing to do: eat pistachio nuts. Lots of them. And rearrange your bookshelves. Many times. But what happens when you follow your mother’s patented and thoroughly unhinged super-fast shortcut to forgetting and then the unthinkable happens – your best friend comes back again, walking casually into class like she never left? What happens when she goes and sits next to your old nemesis and invites her to join the netball team, dooming it to certain and horrible failure? Somehow, Olivia has to find a way to be friends with this new Annabel, preferably one that doesn’t involve demented parental advice or books such as Journey to Your Inner You-ness.

Annabel, Again is a story about pistachios and psychotic chickens; about not-quite-maniacs and the secret life of turtles. In the end, it’s a story about losing friendship, about fighting to hold on to what you had, and finally getting it back again, in a surprising new shape.

What Readers Are Saying:

a help-me-i-think-i-need-surgery-to-separate-me-from-this-book kind of read’ (Tiana, age 11)

‘Meg McKinlay has perfectly captured the nature of teenage friendships in all of their glory … A funny, sometimes poignant look at friendship, getting older and the importance of communication.’
Books and Publishing

‘With believable characters, lively dialogue and authentically expressed emotions, this engrossing novel explores the shifting grounds of friendship and complexities of growing up.’
Judges’ Report, 2007 WA Premier’s Book Awards

Netball and nastiness, friendship and fights, this book explores preteen female relationships with refreshing insight … Young girls will immediately identify with the characters and scenes from Annabel, Again.’
The Reading Stack


  • Shortlisted, West Australian Young Readers Book Awards, 2008
  • Shortlisted, WA Premier’s Book Awards, 2007


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Behind the Story

The idea for Annabel, Again came to me while walking my dog in the park near our home. It was the middle of summer, and the lake was completely dry. Maybe it’s because I like to run, or perhaps there’s something about that vast, open space that appealed to me, but I suddenly imagined a young girl running madly across that dry lake-bed. I didn’t know who she was, or whether she was running from, or towards something, but the image stayed with me and formed the basis for the novel. In the book, this scene occurs towards the end, but I didn’t really know that until I got there.

At the time that I started writing the book, my daughter had a friend who lived across the park from us, and I guess that formed part of the story. I thought about two best friends who lived on opposite sides of the park and why one of them might be running, and gradually spun everything out from there, like a big, messy spider-web.

As the story evolved, I realized that I was writing about female friendship, and that this is something that I’m very interested in. I think all of us who have been girls have had to negotiate the often difficult and always-shifting terrain of early female friendships; I remember finding it tough to steer a path through all that myself.

Although there’s nothing autobiographical about the book in terms of plot – I never had a friend who moved away and then came back – I guess you could say that parts of it are emotionally autobiographical. I’m sure that I tapped into some of my own experiences in writing the interactions between the girls and there are other elements I’ve drawn from my own life – for example:

  • Tmanning1he park in between Livvy’s and Annabel’s houses, which I call Sheldon Park in the novel, is based on Manning Park, just a short walk from my house. It features cruising ducks, invisible tortoises, and scraggly old-man trees.
  • I played netball for years, starting in Centre, and moving on to Goal Shooter around Year 9. Although I liked shooting goals, I always missed the freedom being Centre gave me (and I suspect that, like Livvy, I missed the feeling of everything revolving around me).
  • I used to time myself running around the block. My brother (who I was trying to emulate, and who to this day is an amazing endurance athlete) used to stroll beside me as I huffed and puffed, saying, ‘Are you sure you can’t go any faster?’ It always frustrated me that I was such a good runner in my head, but that my legs didn’t seem to get the message. Livvy would have said that I was obviously good at other things … ‘yet to be discovered’.
  • As an adult, I have been known to enthusiastically leap onto playground swings, only to discover that my stomach isn’t as strong as it used to be.
  • Despite all these small pieces of me that made their way into the book, I would like to stress that I am nothing like Livvy’s Mum. Or Annabel’s. Not one little bit.