Book reviews for Aussie teachers and their students.

Berry

Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station.  Two years later, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by her friends and family.

Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to her childhood friend, Lucas.  He is the boy who has owned her heart for as long as she can remember – even if he doesn’t know it.

But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose – to continue living in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever.

Not usually keen on mystery, I only decided to read this book since it had a strong historical bent.  Set in the past, probably the early years of American colonisation (although the actual date is never stated) Julie Berry’s story has immediate parallels with works of fiction that include Miller’s “The Crucible” and Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”.  I did wonder if this was going to take the book into rocky terrain.  I need not have feared.

The story is narrated by Judith, who rather oddly tells her tale in the second person to her friend Lucas.  This style of narration that shouldn’t really work, and yet it does, creating an intimacy that almost makes the reader feel as if he or she is intruding upon a private conversation.  The story itself is told in fragments, constantly jumping backwards and forwards into time.  It took me a short while to adjust to her style, but once I did I found myself irretrievably absorbed into Judith’s world.   My greatest fear for Berry’s story is that this approach may deter many readers, seeing them give up early on what is otherwise a superbly written piece of fiction.

Sparsely written, with a humble simplicity, this is a story that is so filled with pain it literally aches from the very first page.  It had me teetering on the edge of tears the whole way, and those tears didn’t spill over until the end.  This book will appeal with students in the upper end of the middle years and is a great choice for senior students, especially suitable for use with the Independent Study.  It could function well when paired with the likes of “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold.

Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden

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