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Posted July 15, 2010
Early one morning, 17 year-old Mannie Clarkeson leaves home for good on her bicycle wearing her mother's red evening gown. As she embarks on her journey, we discover bit-by-bit through flashback scenes why she left. This beginning and the title hooked me immediately. Mannie's mother is mentally unstable, her father kind and protective to a fault, her brother the center of attention, and Harry, his friend, different from the other young men. Then one night, an event shatters all their lives and Mannie must learn to face the truth and appreciate what she has, after mourning what she's lost.
Author Martine Murray has a way of writing that draws in the reader in this coming-of-age story. It is introspective, brutally honest and lyrical. Manny is a quirky vulnerable girl. Seeing the world through her eyes is intriguing and reminded me of my teen years. I ached for this teenager who had to contend with great losses in her life. I liked the role the grandparents played in her life and that Mannie recognized the goodness in the people close to her that she failed to see initially when she focused on their faults as she struggled with emotional pain. This was a big mature step for a girl who grew up without much guidance.
As much as I liked being in the character's head because of my psychology background, I cannot recommend it as a clean read. Apart from the profanity and some vulgar words, it has a scene with an exhibitionist that is explicit, several references to sexual situations, and a scene that involves drugs. It's unknown if Mannie had sex with Harry but it is alluded. As a parent and an adult I appreciated this novel as it clearly demonstrated that a lack of communication, outward display of love and affection, and moral guidance could leave a child lost and hurting. But I question why novels today that are targeted at our youth (12 and up) contain such explicit elements. I understand the aspect of realism but my concern is for the impressionistic and beautiful minds of our youth.