Pool by Justin D'Ath

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When Wolfgang finds a butterfly wing on his father's car grill, he is so excited he emails a butterfly expert, Dr Karalis, anxious for a response. Each day he works at the local swimming pool, now almost a shrine where people come to be cured of their ills. Here he meets Audrey, a blind woman. Her father, worried that she is so alone, hires Wolfgang to take her out for the week, but he starts to become more interested in her. Her behaviour, to say the least, is odd, but Wolfgang begins to feel protective and responsible for her.

One night at a party, Wolfgang and several friends drink his father's whiskey, and drunk, get Wolfgang to open the swimming pool for them. Here he almost drowns, and one of his companions calls the ambulance. The group hides, and later Audrey visits Wolfgang to enquire after him, taking the pool key from his pocket. Next morning she is found, drowned.

In its bare bones, it sounds like a story about suicide, but it is so much more. D'Arth has created a modern fantasy story, where Audrey's experiences are wrapped up with the Lourdes like pool. When her blindness is not cured by the water, she takes the next logical step. Beethoven said near death that he would be able to hear in heaven, and so it seems for Audrey. But lurking under the logical explanations are the intriguing similarities between butterflies and Audrey, the near death experiences which people share, the possibility of angels. A well written tale, Pool will engender many discussions and debates, readers pondering the line between life and death, and at a grass roots level, talking about how people manage with a disability. An inspiring read for middle school students.

Fran Knight