Review Blog

Jan 13 2013

So much to tell you by John Marsden

cover image

Lothian, 2012. ISBN 9780734413291.
At Warrington boarding school, girls in the English class taught by Mr. Lindell are invited to record their thoughts and feelings in a journal. For Marina, this becomes a means to express her fear, pain and memories and the narrative of the tale is developed through these diary entries.
It is soon revealed that Marina does not speak and that she has shut down from the world following a traumatic event, the details of which are explained only gradually. The reader pieces together clues to finally understand the specifics of Marina's lasting physical and emotional injuries, however during the early stages of the novel, it is easy and reasonable to accept that this teen simply does not speak.
The characters of the girls who cohabit Marina's dormitory are recognisable from life and she gains the reader's sympathy as she copes with their foolish fun, emotional outbursts and juvenile behaviour. Tentative gestures of friendship are offered however and much of the novel is occupied with perceptive portrayal of the breathtaking fear associated with trusting others and taking the plunge in reaching out to them.
This 25 year anniversary edition includes the author's recollections of the writing process in which he assumed this young girl's character. Marsden's portrayal of this injured soul, struggling to exist In a world where she is silent and sometimes even invisible is honest and realistic, without wallowing in excessive emotion. I like the relative simplicity of this novel because there is an interesting story being told using a range of plausible characters drawn with appropriate depth, yet peripheral details, events and unnecessary description have been pared away.
This story features many instances of kindness extended by individuals who expect nothing in return. This lends a sense of hope and faith in the decency of everyday people which is lacking in some contemporary teenage literature which is bleak and cynical.
Setting, style and language will not betray to modern readers that this was written twenty five years ago and I believe that it will be equally enjoyable and moving today as it was then.
Rob Welsh

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