Enjoyed reading my first Wendy James book. Couldn't put it down. The characters in the story were realistic and life like in the sense that they reacted in a realistic manner to the situations. The themes in the story were very thought-provoking and made me think about how often they mirrored real life situations, and made me question how I would react to certain circumstances in the story. Now reading The Mistake by the same author.
I recently read The Golden Child, and couldn't put it down. James writes wonderfully, giving insights into the thoughts of her various characters. She writes about the confronting issues (and consequences) surrounding both schoolyard and online bullying and harassment. The book also provokes the reader to reconsider some assumptions about 'parent-blaming'. Thanks, Wendy, for this wonderful and challenging book. :D
Beth Mahony and her husband Dan have been living in New Jersey, USA for long enough for their daughters Lucy and Charlotte (Charlie) to consider it home. So, while Beth is initially delighted when Dan tells her that they will be returning home to Australia, Lucy and Charlie are not. Beth hasn’t been able to work in the USA, and part of her energy has been spent blogging as Lizzy on DizzyLizzy.com. Beth used to be a journalist, and this is one way to practice her communication skills.
But Lizzy’s online life and Beth’s real life diverge once the family move back to Australia. Beth had hoped that they’d move to Sydney, but instead they are heading to Newcastle where Dan’s mother lives. Beth’s mother isn’t far away either, and the prospect of having them both so close is not one that Beth looks forward to.
And then there’s the girls. Charlie seems the most upset about moving to Australia, while Lucy seems more accepting. The girls are growing up, becoming more independent. Just before they leave the USA, there’s an incident involving one of the girls. It has Beth wondering, but there’s so much to do to move the family back to Australia, and surely it was just an accident?
In Australia, with Lucy and Charlie in a private high school, in a big house in need of renovation, Beth starts blogging again. She enjoys the contact with her followers around the world. Beth’s thinking, too, about getting a job. The girls are old enough to be a little more independent, and Dan’s mother is close by. Beth has met another mother, and their daughters are in the same class. New friendships?
And then, just when things seem to be settling, the world turns upside down. A classmate is bullied, both in person and on social media. It seems that one of Beth’s daughters may have been the ringleader. What has happened, and why?
‘Nobody could call it bullying ...’
The novel shifts between Beth, her blog as Lizzy and a series of posts on a website (known as GOLDENCHILD.COM) by ‘I’m a girl who knows how to get what she wants and likes to share.’ Part of the mystery is working out exactly who the Golden Child is. As the story unfolds, the claustrophobic world of teenaged girls with their rigid rules about acceptance and ostracism makes me grateful that these particular years are many decades behind me. The availability and use of social media makes it all so intense, so hard to escape.
There are twists in this story, twists which kept me wondering and reading. I found this novel absorbing, and confronting. Just how well do we know our children?
This book effortlessly hooks you right from the start. Beth, Dan and their daughters Lucy and Charlotte are going home to Australia after 10 years in New Jersey. There has been a bit of a problem with Charlotte. Pretty, clever and popular, she leads a gang that requires a girl to eat horrible things as an initiation rite. Charlie's contribution is oleander leaves, which are poisonous. The girl is hospitalised. It's all glossed over as an unfortunate mistake. Back in Oz, they live in Newcastle, and the girls start high school at a prestigious ladies college. Charlotte devotes her energy to figuring out the social hierarchy. Unlike her shyer, sweeter older sister, she is determined to be with the uber cool kids.
Plump Sophie has prodigious musical talent. She is definitely not cool and now that her two friends have moved to different cities, is very lonely. She deals with her isolation by arranging lunchtimes full of music practice, reading club etc. Her mother Andi makes friends with Beth, and at home Sophie and Charlotte can be friendly. But at school, Charlotte blanks Sophie, who of course, is hurt. Then follows a horrendous account of cyber- bullying, which ends with Sophie taking an overdose. Interspersed with this are Beth's ex-pat mum blogs, and blogs from The Golden Child, whom we assume to be Charlotte, which are basically about how to manipulate people, including parents. It seems that Charlotte is a kind of Kevin, who needs to be talked about, despite her rigorous denials that she created a nasty website about Sophie, complete with photos from her iPad, that urged Sophie to kill herself.
Towards the end of the book you get the feeling that all is not as straightforward as it seems. Everyone is in for a shock. This book is brilliantly written. The characterisation, the plot development, the voicing, and the quality of the writing are excellent. It's rare to see someone using "disinterested" properly, BTW. You can only imagine how bleak it must feel to be the parent of a child who can do such awful things. As Dan's mother Margie says, it's as though people have lost their moral compass. We can never be sanguine about the supposed innocence of children. Well done, Wendy James. I'm going to read your other books.