Review Blog

Jun 10 2009

The 10 pm question by Kate De Goldi

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2008
ISBN 9781741757354
Highly recommended. I greatly enjoyed this well written book which tackles the themes of early teenage angst and relationships, depression and adult agoraphobia. Its appeal lies largely in the believability and likeability of the characters, many of whom can be described as mildly eccentric in the English way. It was not immediately obvious that the book was set in New Zealand, but the cultural tone is refreshingly different to Australia.
Although thirteen year old Frankie is squeamish and neurotic, his concerns undoubtedly reflect many normal teenage worries and the author's skill in sharing what is going on in his head creates empathy and care for him. Frankie has a lot to worry about with his mum being agoraphobic for the last nine years, and he feeling unnecessarily responsible for her in the way that sensitive children do. Plus a new girl suddenly appears in his life and threatens not only his relationship with his good mate Gigs, but also his carefully created stability and order. The book is set over some four months with each chapter set about two weeks later than the last one. Despite its serious theme there is humour and vivid detail aplenty.
Frankie's caring family are individual but normal characters and his three maiden aunts are unforgettable in their unsatiable zest for life. You wish you had aunts like this. The teacher, Mr A, is a character we no longer see in schools, more's the pity. In Sydney, the new girl, Kate De Goldi creates a remarkably confident, non-conformist and likeable young lady who succeeds in spite of a very unstable background. She and Frankie have life lessons for each other but this isn't a 'message' book. I liked the way De Goldi creates characters who are original, creative, different, likeable and accepted. We need more like them in these increasingly conformist times. So what if the family calls dad 'Uncle George', his mum never steps outside the door and Frankie doesn't get to Camp? They all still have a lot going for them!
I felt the title and cover design of a bird did not do justice to the book, given how teenagers are so visually driven, and how real the people in it are. More discerning readers in all secondary years will enjoy this book. Its 'old-fashioned' tone is like a breath of fresh air.
Kevyna Gardner

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