Deena is a teenage girl being raised by her elder sister Rachel in Dublin. There is a 17-year gap in their ages, Deena having been a “bonus baby” when her mother was 50. Deena’s mom died of an aneurysm when Deena was only a few months old, and very shortly thereafter Deena’s dad took off across the country to live his life, leaving Rachel to raise her sister. The father checks in periodically to bawl out his girls for not being worth much. Also in the family is Rachel’s twin sister Mandy, who is a wild child and never stays around for long.
On Deena’s 17th birthday she is outed unexpectedly to her family for being homosexual. She goes to school–where she has already been experiencing bullying–to be humiliated about this by her peers. She flees to her Aunt Mandy’s dumpy, shared flat for some TLC, on which she can always count. From there things rapidly go downhill.
Mandy disappears. Finally a police report comes in revealing that she has fallen off a cliff in Donegal and is presumed dead, although no body washes up. From Mandy, however, Deena has learned that she in all likelihood has inherited a family curse which falls upon its women when they turn 17. Deena cannot accept that Mandy is dead, and she sets out to trace her steps, find her, and break said curse. Thus ensues quite the tale of family secrets, stories, fantasies, omens, treasure-hunt-type clues, and revelations. As it eventually turns out, Mandy is actually Deena’s MOTHER, IS found still alive, and the family (minus the pig-headed father) is re-formed into a truthful, more whole unit.
In telling the story, the author goes into some detail about the Magdalene laundries to which unwed girls/women were often sent to have their babies in secret, and about the industrial schools to which unadopted illegitimate children were sent. Also covered is the manner in which Irish women had to leave the country until very, very recently in order to seek abortions. These are things which certainly bear exposure and consideration.
This reads like a book for older young adults. The story includes rape, sexual abuse, childbirth pain, promiscuity, multiple homosexual relationships, and frequent use of the F word (well, no, I really do NOT have to spell out that ugly word in my review).
One of the characters becomes pregnant through rape. Other characters become pregnant through promiscuity or ineffective birth control with their supposedly committed- but unmarried-partners (most of whom fail the women when things become inconvenient). The way of the world being what it is, perhaps along with the outrage fanned by the author that women sometimes have to suffer very serious consequences for their sexual activity, I wonder if discussion groups might also make a case for, um, chastity instead, as a practical matter. Include in the discussion why an individual’s family or larger society must bear the expense and work of raising unplanned-for children to adulthood.
Categories: Body Acceptance, Bullying, Dysfunctional Relationships, Fantasy, LGBTQIA, Mysteries, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Political Activism