An Australian teenager struggles to cope with grief and mental illness in this captivating debut.
Seventeen-year-old Biz constantly sees her father even though he died nearly 10 years ago. He pops up to remind her of events from her childhood, to speak with her when she’s spiraling, to puzzle out their shared history of mental illness. She doesn’t tell anyone else: not her single mother, not her best friend, Grace (with whom she shared a kiss), not the new boy, Jasper, who walks with a limp, or his grandmother, who has taken Biz under her wing. After an incident further triggers her undiagnosed (or, at least, unnamed) PTSD, Biz begins to unravel, dropping out of school before both literally and metaphorically journeying to better understand her father. Biz’s mental health crisis, which primarily takes the form of hallucinations, dissociation, and panic attacks, is portrayed with raw, vivid authenticity. Biz and the majority of the cast default to white (Grace is implied biracial Chinese/white), and while their sexual identities are questioned, they never become the central focus of the story. Characters sometimes feel flat or underdeveloped, but this is fitting for Biz’s first-person perspective, which is unreliable and frequently foggy. Fox’s prose is lyrical and profoundly affecting, providing a nuanced account of the hereditary effects of trauma.
Haunting. (resources) (Fiction. 14-18)