Review Blog

Nov 07 2011

Have you seen Ally Queen? by Deb Fitzpatrick

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Fremantle Press, 2011. ISBN: 9781921888489.
(Ages: 12+) Highly recommended. When fifteen year old Ally Queen moves from Perth to the back of beyond, she believes that her life is over. With her only friends having been left behind and their communication being limited to text messages and emails, it seems that nothing can get any worse. Ally's nerdy younger brother, Jerry, lives for his electronic creations and seems happy enough about the move, whereas she places the blame entirely on her non-conformist parents who have forced the change upon the family. Feeling as though she doesn't fit in, with her dress sense and interests different to those of the girls at the new school, Ally keeps to herself and seemingly attracts the interest of only an annoying boy who travels on her bus. Her mother starts to 'lose the plot' and Ally continues to keep her private life a secret from her class mates, teachers and the school counsellor whom she is forced to visit. Will her life ever be 'normal' again?
By using the genuine voice of an egocentric teenage girl, Fitzpatrick has dealt with the serious issues of growing up, being true to oneself, family, friendship, relationships, isolation and mental illness in such a way as to appeal to a broad variety of readers. There is a suitable amount of humour sprinkled throughout thereby lifting the mood of the story without trivialising the issues. From an adult perspective, the wall Ally builds around herself, thereby adding to her loneliness, seems unnecessary. To a teenager, it is highly likely this would be the accepted way of handling matters, yet the author shows that problems can be shared and hence diminished.
The similarities between this title and Tim Winton's Lockie Leonard Legend are certainly evident. With the Western Australian beach setting, the distinctive Aussie voice, the move to new towns, the mental illnesses experienced by the mothers of the protagonists and their ways of handling them, these could act work together as paired or comparative texts. The responsibilities Locky and Ally take on could provide a focus for the points of difference between the two titles.
Jo Schenkel

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