Tess Turner has just discovered something terrible. She read her dad’s blog and six hundred and seventeen words later her world is kind of coming apart at the seams. Soon she retreats into a world of silence, communicating only with her plastic goldfish torch, as she tries to make sense of what she’s found out.
I liked the theme of the book, which was all about identity and how where we come from shapes who we are. There’s also the nature versus nurture debate and the question of what constitutes a ‘real’ parent - the person whose DNA you share, or the person who raised you? These questions are dealt with in depth, albeit through the eyes of an emotional fifteen year old.
And this brings me on to Tess. Unfortunately I didn’t find Tess very relatable. I think maybe it’s because she’s only fifteen, and a fairly immature fifteen, but this felt more like an MG novel than YA, especially the internal dialogue with her goldfish torch. She was a bit self-pitying and instead of just questioning her parents about what she had read (and she seemed to have a fairly strong relationship with her parents, even though her dad was a bit of a prat), she just bottled everything up. What she found out was shocking, no doubt, and it would have taken some getting used to but at the end of the day she still had two parents who were invested in her. People go through worse and manage to deal.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m very much on the side of nurture that I struggled to see Tess’s viewpoint. Your parent is the person who changes your nappy, sits through your nativity play, tells you you’re gorgeous when you look like a minger, nurses you through chickenpox and norovirus and show up every day. The casual way Tess ignored everything her mum and dad had done for her (her dad’s knobbishness notwithstanding) annoyed me and after the three amazing characters Annabel Pitcher put together in Ketchup Clouds, this felt a little disappointing.
And don’t get me started on the instant, all-consuming fixation on the supply teacher she becomes convinced is her real dad. Really not sure where that came from.
I’ll tell you who I did like, though - Isabel. She was cool. I liked her very much. She was uber geek and proud of it (correct) and funny and loyal. I was glad she was included in the book, not only because I always like to see non-toxic female friendships but because she reminded me that this author really can do quirky, totally real characters. Awesome. More like Isabel, please Ms Pitcher.