Review Blog

Sep 08 2017

Siren by Rachel Matthews

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Transit Lounge, 2017. ISBN 9780995359567
(Age: Adult - Senior secondary) This is a story told for a specific reason, and a valuable and valid reason it is indeed. Rachel Matthews constructs a narrative that is engendered in the opening story of a 16 year old girl, Jordi, who is seduced by a footballer. Taken back to his apartment, with others, she takes part in a sexual act that seems to be acceptable at first but, because she is not in a state to agree, and she does not acquiesce, it is rape. The consequences are almost catastrophic for the young woman. In the embarrassment of being a victim, and in her inability to put into words what happened, Jordi is not able to reveal what happened and sinks into a deeply disturbed state.
Jordi's family is presented as struggling and dysfunctional, the father rarely there, her mother living from the money he sometimes brings when he finds work and manages to take the money back home. Her mother is depicted as loving and concerned about her children but is caught in a cycle of poverty that engenders dependence and so often generates despair.
Matthews challenges a society where people can slide into a state where they are unable to find work and are caught in a cycle of poverty. She challenges the idolization of famous sportsmen, the world of the 'party', where the use of drugs, alcohol and casual sex, particularly between older men and young, impressionable, innocent women, is seen as the norm. The footballer is not depicted as either nasty or bad, but he is clearly a victim of a culture that promises particular pleasures as a reward for celebrity status.
This novel would be appropriate for both adults and older adolescents, in its powerful and deliberately disturbing narrative. Rachel Matthews brings us back to the basic notion of the need for the truths that are so often hidden, both personally and socially, and for families, in whatever form they may take today, to be open and supportive of each other. In the development of the characters, and in the outcome, there are strong signs of hope.
Elizabeth Bondar

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