Review Blog

Mar 27 2013

Song in the Dark by Christine Howe

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Penguin Australia, 2013. ISBN 9780143567448. Pbk, 184 pages. RRP: $17.99.
Highly recommended but for very mature readers 15+. Anyone looking for a gripping and gritty read for young adults should look at this extraordinary novel with its themes of love, betrayal, forgiveness, addiction and especially hope.
Paul is a teenager who has dealt with numerous difficulties throughout his relatively short life, beginning with his mother disappearing with him - abandoning his father and his loving grandmother.
In increasing turmoil during his teen years, he falls in with friends who are definitely of the wrong kind. They lead him into more and more dark and despairing situations - he spirals from smoking pot, to dealing it, to heroin which, naturally, takes hold of him with its usual ferocity. The slim thread which keeps Paul in touch with a normal life is his Granny, with whom he reconnects when eventually his mother returns them to his childhood neighbourhood.
But as anyone who has had any intimate knowledge of addicts and addictive behaviour knows, there are no moral boundaries for those in the clutches of dependency. Desperate for money to buy the next hit, Paul attempts to steal his Granny's hidden jar of cash with consequences both dire and ironically, life-saving. The truth of hitting rock bottom before you can climb up again is evident as Paul's life begins to turn around and is salvaged through the kindness of strangers (in this case, the Salvos) as well as the belief and love that can unite family members, even though they are apart
'He doesn't want to be like that anymore. Not now - not ever.' The reader is left with an overwhelming sense of hope for Paul's future which resonates and compels empathy for his character.
Highly recommended - but for very mature readers 15+ - there is very strong language as well as the numerous drug references.
Sue Warren

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