Becoming Dinah by Kit de Waal

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Orion Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781510105706. 243p., pbk.
(Age guide: 13+) Highly recommended. Who doesn't love a road trip novel? This is not a standard coming of age story but a fresh take on a much-loved classic. Kit de Waal uses the road trip to chart the journey from one state of being to another, using flashbacks to explain the main characters' pasts and how they came to be where they are. The author takes Melville's Moby Dick and brings it into the current age, casting Ishmael as a girl and Ahab as the former leader of the defunct New Bedford Fellowship. Both are in pain and both are obsessed - Ishmael/Dinah struggling with sexual identity and coming of age; Ahab with the pain of a life he cherished in ruins. We join Dinah and Ahab as they traverse the countryside in The Pequod, an old VW camper, in an attempt to retrieve Ahab's stolen van, and we feel the darkness and confusion that has taken over their lives. Their obsessions define the story and are quite heartbreakingly relatable and tragic. This is a novel about love and loss and isolation; about looking back and the process of rebirth in moving forward. It is about finding out who you are . . . finding your tribe. Given the variety of themes - obsession, sexual identity, isolation, personal growth as well as being a retelling of Moby Dick, this book could be used in the classroom as a class text or as an independent reading novel to explore a number of ideas.
Gaye Howe