Monday, August 21, 2017

[Review] Ballad for a Mad Girl by Vikki Wakefield

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Publication: 29/05/2017
Publisher: Text Publishing
Pages: 368
Source: Library
Genre: YA {Contemporary}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity

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My Rating
My thoughts

I read Vikki Wakefield's debut novel and really enjoyed it, and found myself connecting with the characters and story, it was lovely. This one? Not quite as much. In fact, I'm still so confused as to what actually happened that I fear my review will just be a completely incomprehensible mess. 

Ballad for a Mad Girl involves grief, death, fear, prank wars and rivalry between schools in a small Aussie town, a dog that won't go upstairs, pizza, friendship amongst misfits, and the voices and visions that may be all in Grace's head. Is she losing her mind or is there really a ghost, come with messages and secrets that can help solve a 20-year-old unsolved murder mystery?

I really liked the concept of this book, and the writing had real gems interspersed throughout the narrative. I liked all the little Aussie quirks, and the dialogue and progression of Grace's character and her descent were astonishingly realistic. The thing that got me was that I had no bloody clue what the heck was going on! Because this book is written in Grace's perspective (can you say unreliable narrator?), we can only go by what she says, but a lot of what she says happens makes no sense at all.

As the narrative progresses, Grace falls further and further down the spiral into madness. She doesn't eat, she doesn't sleep. She's not the funny little prankster her friends know her to be - in fact, no one believes her anymore, the girl who cried wolf. She scares little kids on the bus because she has rashes and cuts all over, her eyes gaunt, hair a mess, etc. What really amazes me is the possibilities: she could have a mental illness (like schizophrenia), or maybe she really is being visited by ghosts. She withdraws from school, her friends and family; getting stuck inside Grace's head was really engrossing and disturbing. I did feel a bit of disconnect with her character, but I appreciate Wakefield's writing because it was fascinating to be thrown in with this protagonist who is just so unstable.

As for the other characters, no one stuck out to me in particular. They were just okay. I did like that there was no romance, however.

Also the ending must have gone right over my head. It felt like a pipe dream (at the farm), and I don't understand why or how it happened. Was it just to show just how their family dynamics had changed, and how Grace is starting to come to terms with her grief, or is it something more sinister?

Ultimately, Ballad For A Mad Girl left me with more questions than answers and it's got me feeling very unsettled. The mysteries were also solved in the strangest of ways, I really don't know how Grace connected all the dots, it just seems like it all fell into place in the end. However, Vikki Wakefield has written another compelling and absorbing mystery novel, its main character Grace is unforgettable.


First lines:

"I've been having hateful thoughts again.
I wish I could cast them out like an airborne curse or summon a superpower through sheer will. I'd choose telekinesis over flying any day - slam some saucepans, smash a few ornaments, shatter a window. I'd drag my dad across the floor, slide him up a wall, pin him to the ceiling, and laugh like a maniac as I stroll out the front door.
Favourite lines:
"'I'm fine.' I'm scared. I'm not feeling like myself. I have this awful sense that I'm suddenly carrying the weight of a thousand terrible histories and my hands are not my hands; they're shaking and the veins are moving like worms under my skin. 'How are you?' (36)
"'Do you remember what you said?'
He shakes his  head. 'Shitbiscuits, or some such? I don't know. It was a long time ago.
'You said you thought your heart was going to beat its way out of your chest and the first thing that came into your head was some prayer about dying in your sleep. You said you were a goddamned believer, until you realised it was me.'
'Wow. I was a verbose little turd, wasn't I? Shitbiscuits would've covered it.' (130)

AUSTRALIA: A&R | Booktopia | Boomerang Books

INTERNATIONAL: Book Depository

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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