Month: May 2019

Invisibly Breathing by Eileen Merriman

I’ve struggled with this book. I have been heavily invested in this authors work and have read her previous two novels with delight and joy. She has nailed teenage voice and the trials and tribulations of teenage life, its conflicts and challenges. She does that again in this one. Yet still I struggled with it, it has taken me an age to read. The characters of Felix and Bailey were great and I loved their romance and the challenges they faced to be together. I thought the anger and abuse were very well written, the struggle of Bailey’s family to cope was very moving. And yet I struggled.

There was a lot going on, a great local setting, a bunch of issues to drive the story. It was fabulous to read a local book for teens with characters with sexuality stuff going on, the gradual awakening of Felix to his sexuality was great. And yet I struggled.

It felt a little unfinished, that it could have been just slightly more tightly plotted. I think it possibly tried to cover too many issues and while that is admirable and Eileen Merriman can be trusted to handle issues sensitively and in ways that appeal to the teenage audience, this one slightly misses the mark. 

Having said all this I will be pushing it at my students, some have already read it and enjoyed it, but for me I’ll push the other two books just a tiny bit harder.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean

This engrossing book had me hooked from the very beginning. Everything about it made me happy. The tone is light, from Tikka’s point of view as she reflects on the disappearance of her best friends and neighbours, The Van Apfel Girls, when she was a child. Tikka is home from Baltimore for a visit after hearing that her beloved sister Laura has cancer.

Ruth, Hannah and Cordelia and Tikka’s sister Laura, were inseparable, spending time walking together to school, playing made up games, sweltering in the heat together and cooling off in the pool. Their good times however are always overshadowed by the harsh nature of the father of the Van Apfels. He is bad tempered, ultra religious and believes in punishing harshly for even the smallest misdemeanour, minor infractions earn the sisters a beating and wrath. It is uncomfortable and it isn’t spoken of but Tikka and Laura know that their own happy home life is very different to that happening down the street.

It is 1992, Azaria Chamberlain was taken by a dingo and Lindy Chamberlain has just been exonerated, it is hot, so hot. The school is working up to the Summer Showstopper, a talent show at the end of the year, Tikka is writing a show based on the Azaria story. Meanwhile the older Van Apfel Girls plan to run away with Laura’s help while everyone is watching the Showstopper.

The story loops around and around as Tikka reflects back on the events leading up to the girls disappearance. There is a wonderful cast of characters, a creepy teacher, the sinister Mr Van Apfel, nosy neighbour, Tikka’s mum and dad who watch the activities of the neighbours.

I loved everything about this book, the point of view is fabulously written, Tikka’s voice is so authentic. As we circle around to the girls disappearance the tension is palpable, Seen through the eyes of a child we get a different perspective of the time after the disappearance than we would have if the book was narrated by an adult. Tikka the adult has so many unresolved emotions and the pain she felt as a child, the emptiness and loss she felt are with us from the beginning of the book and remain the whole way through. I loved her voice.

This is right up there for me in my picks of the year.
Thanks so much to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me access to this book.