The friendship between optimistic Dinah Beach and depressed, nihilistic Skint Gilbert is tested in a carefully crafted and highly stylized tale.
The narrative is written in third person and told with a degree of distance from each point-of-view character (mostly Dinah, but occasionally Skint and twice Dinah's baby brother, Beagie), and it is initially difficult to discern how much to take at face value. How sincere is the pair's devotion to the Girls' Friendly, a service club at the church where Dinah's father is warden? How seriously are readers to take language like Dinah's internal “Tchah to Mrs. Beach's Alone Night!” or her mother's “You look bilious....What’s wrong?” The closeness between Dinah and Skint, at least, is clear from the outset, and so are the conflicts between them. Skint thinks constantly about human cruelty; Dinah wants playful distractions. Skint lives with a father suffering from dementia and a mother who is bitter, angry and occasionally violent; Dinah takes care not to bring up Skint's family. Images of Skint wandering coatless through the New England winter haunt even the narrative's cheerful moments, and the story builds to a climax both inevitable and wrenching.
Readers who invest in this quirky set of characters and circumstances will be rewarded. (Fiction. 14 & up)