Review Blog

Jul 23 2012

Divine Clementine by Hayley S Kirk

cover image

Random House Australia, 2012. ISBN: 9781864718997.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. On the second page of Divine Clementine, Clementine is witness to the tragic and abrupt death of Stella, her best friend and aunty. We then journey to a very dark place with Clementine as she struggles with trauma and denial. For the first part of the novel, this narrative is often uncomfortable, often heart-breaking, yet always genuinely poignant. Clementine lashes out at everyone with cruel, cutting declarations, and scary, harmful actions. We hang on, and hope something will occur that lets her see her life is worth it.
The secondary characters are built beautifully: Clementine's parents, Theo the confused boy-next-door, Stella's siblings and parents, and even Stella who is flighty, unpredictable, and mysterious. Stella has totally coloured Clementine's perception of the people who love her. Only when Clementine has access to Stella's journals do we see Aunty Stella was not always truthful or fair to the other members of her family. These big reveals impact further on Clementine, and she sinks still deeper into depression, and distances herself even more from those who love her.
In the last third of the book Clementine is forced to spend her summer holiday with her aunt and uncle on their farming property. Here I found myself questioning the plot devices used by the author. Although it unfolds slowly and realistically enough, Clementine's growing affection for Thom, the young man from the next door farm, seems to have an almost too-good-to-be-true cathartic effect on her. Some time has passed since Stella's death, and the introduction of gorgeous nieces and nephews whose innocent and nonjudgmental attitudes soften her hardened heart, but chiefly it is Thom who swoops in and saves the day. And I worry about Clementine replacing one person with another, so quickly, and so completely. I know I said earlier in the review that she needed someone to show her life can be good, but this just seemed a little too easy.
However, it is the character of Clementine who holds this book together. Her voice is strong and feisty, and she is portrayed beautifully as honest, funny, and clever. So it's quite easy to dismiss these little niggles and accept Clementine has emerged with a clearer head, and a greater understanding of the fallible nature of people.
Unfortunately Divine Clementine might be overlooked since it deals with topics that seem to be everywhere in YA Lit this year: Death, grief, loss, mental illness, and family dysfunction. However, it holds its own in the company of others.
Trish Buckley

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