by Louisa Reid (Penguin) ISBN 9780141343198
Audrey describes how she died three times before she was five. She used to love being in the water but is now terrified. She can’t actually remember what happened, but still suffers from chest pain when she runs. Her mother apparently saved her from drowning which was printed in the local newspapers: ‘Mum saves daughter’.
Audrey longs to be normal and accepted by her peers but finds it very difficult to make friends due to her illness. Leo, a fellow student, understands her situation and is drawn to her. They are also neighbours. Audrey has one friend, Jen. She has a five-year-old brother, Peter, for whom she cares and loves very much.
Audrey misses a lot of school and her mother describes her as a very poorly teenager. Her parents are not together anymore. Audrey is held in her mother’s clutches in the name of love. At first it appears like possessiveness and smothering, but later turns out to be abuse and bullying. The mother wants to elicit the sympathy of others and gain their attention for herself. The book is compelling reading, gripping, but also harrowing, frustrating, sickening and heart-wrenching.
You feel Audrey’s desperation and utter helplessness, her mental and physical anguish and pain. The little happiness she manages to steal is short-lived but at least she has a glimpse at what life could be like. The author demonstrates just how far a mother could go for her own sick needs. She expertly describes the effect of the syndrome on the mother and her daughter. There is contact information for teenagers who need help at the end of the book. Audrey could have benefitted from this. I would recommend this for parents, teenagers and teachers.
This is a fast read, fascinating with an unusual subject matter. This engaging book leaves a lingering memory that begs attention.