Girl defective by Simmone Howell

cover image

Pan Macmillan, 2013. ISBN
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Sky Martin is a 15 year old girl. Life is tough. Her mother has left the family and gone to Japan, her brother Gully wears a pig mask all the time and her father has a dusty record shop and likes beer a bit too much. When someone throws a brick through the shop window, Gully is determined to investigate, but there is also the mystery of the girl who drowned in the St Kilda canal, and Sky becomes obsessed with that. Then there is the puzzle of the connection that the new boy Luke, who has just started working at the store, seems to have to the dead girl. Her wild friend Nancy takes up with a local boy band leader and leads Sky into some of the underbelly of the city where bands play and sex and drugs are available.
Sky is a girl who is trying to find her place in the world and I became totally involved with her life, her infatuations and her fears. Redolent with the atmosphere of St Kilda, Sky bumbles her way through life trying to keep the family store afloat, looking after her strange little brother and investigating the death of the girl whose crying face has been stencilled around the suburb.
Told in the first person by Sky, the language sings of life in St Kilda, with all its quirkiness, the trample of developers and the violence of fangirls who are in love with the boy singer. Threading its way through is the music that Sky's father collects in his record shop and the rock music of the underground.
Its themes of loneliness, single parent families, mental health and alcoholism, are all serious ones, but Howell manages to touch on them with a light hand that allows the reader to feel empathy for the characters and cheer for Sky as she comes into her own.
Pat Pledger