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John Marsden, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $15 (122p) ISBN 978-0-395-85754-0
This determinedly grim novel is less compelling than most of the Australian writer's previous books (Letters from the Inside), even though it shares their angry energy and capacity to shock. The focus splits between teenage patients in a psychiatric ward and the family crisis that brought the unnamed female narrator there. It is an uneasy split, despite the energetic prose of the girl's diary entries: ""Life seems so fragile. You walk down the centre of the highway, with the big trucks rushing past. They make the air shake. They blow you off your line."" Her fellow participants in group therapy include an obsessive-compulsive, a male anorexic and a girl who thinks she has an animal living in her head. However, the narrator describes their activities rather than interacts with them, so they don't seem fully realized. She claims a deep friendship with the anorexic boy, for example, but he figures only slightly in the stories she tells. And although the narrator eventually works up the courage to break her long silence in group, readers never learn what her diagnosis is--only what happened to her. A heavy dose of Australian politics and corporate-speak in connection with the subplot about the girl's father weigh down the story line, but the pervasive sadness of the narration will make this worthwhile for teenagers who find solace in reading about hard times. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
Prebound-Other - 122 pages - 978-0-613-28442-4
Hardcover - 123 pages - 978-0-7329-0837-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 128 pages - 978-0-440-22860-8
Hardcover - 978-0-395-95448-5
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