8 October 2019
There is a reason why Wendy James is one of my favourite Australian authors, and this book shows exactly why! All the stars from me. Oh, the sheer menace that was oozing out of this book – it made the hair on the back of my neck prickle and gave me nightmares.
How well do you know your children? If you have a cute little baby you may smile serenely and a bit smugly. At toddler age, it starts to dawn that maybe there is more to this parenting thing than you realised. As they turn into teenagers, it gets downright scary! It’s obvious that Wendy James is a parent, because her understanding of every mother’s worst fear is so well portrayed here. We all know about bullying, kids getting picked on in playgrounds and schoolyards, but technology has taken it all one step further – now we don’t even have to intimidate someone in person, it can all be done with the anonymity granted to us online. Let me tell you, if I have ever scoffed at the idea of cyber bullying (my answer being to just simply block people from your facebook account, what can be so difficult about that?) than I now stand humbled in front of the train wreck James has served me up with her latest, heart-pounding book.
Beth, an Australian ex-pat living in the US thinks she has it all: a successful husband, two gorgeous daughters, her weekly blog that gives her a creative outlet for her writing even as a stay-at-home mum. She looks on with fascination how her two daughters can be so different. Lucy, the elder, who is quiet and reflective and never gives any trouble. Charlie, the younger one, who is the opposite of her sister: a leader, an extrovert, a confident and popular girl who is always the centre of every group. An “incident” Charlie is involved in at school is soon forgotten when the family moves back to Australia to live and the girls start a new leaf at a new school. But trouble soon follows, and it’s Charlie who is in the spotlight again, for all the wrong reasons .....
THE GOLDEN CHILD pressed all my intense fear buttons as a parent, even though my children have safely made it through their teenage years by now and have come out intact on the other side. But my heart just bled for Beth! And yes, I have been a teenage girl once, and I know how utterly horrible these creatures can be. After reading about the little peer groups in James’ novel, I am glad that we escaped that particular life stage relatively unscathed (I say relatively, because there have been some road blocks, but nothing like Beth and Andi are facing). These girls are so horrible – ugh!
I loved how James uses blog posts and several different POVs to tell her terrifying tale. Not only did it put a very contemporary spiel on the story, but it also made for very entertaining reading. Following the trail of clues left by the author, I did arrive at the answer before the final reveal, but it did not in any way dampen my suspense, because the way I arrived there was simply nail bitingly terrible to watch. Enough said, no spoilers from me, you will simply have to read it.
All in all, I simply loved this book, if that’s the right word for something that burrows its way into your psyche and gives you nightmares, and you end up discussing it with all your friends and your long suffering husband, who does not see the relevance now that he can smugly look back on surviving our own kids’ teenagehoods. If you are a parent of teenagers, enter this one with caution and a good supply of sleeping pills, because it will keep you awake at night or surfing the net for your kids’ online presences as you contemplate emigrating to a third world country without internet access. It’s one of the best thrillers I have read this year, and one that manages to chill without any corpses, blood or gore or explicitly horrid scenes. It’s what I call a real psychological thriller. Very highly recommended!