Gr 6-9After an accident, 16-year-old Thea awakens with traumatic amnesia. Trapped inside a mind with no memories, she struggles to recover her identity as she returns home to her distracted, workaholic parents and two younger sisters. She feels imprisoned living with these strangers who seem to have such a skewed idea of family life. Prior to her accident, the teen apparently assumed the role of caregiver to her younger siblings. Now, with her mother expecting another child, Thea dreads what her future holds. As she begins to recover, she experiences memories that she isn't sure belong to her. She hears voices and sees ghostly figures in the garden outside her window. Scenes from the spirit world begin to flood in, and Thea finds herself encapsulated in a supernatural mystery that involves love, anger, loneliness, and murder. This is a suspenseful, although sometimes complicated and meandering, tale of spirits, memories, and the place that ties them all together. Characters are well-defined, if not always likable. At times, the plot becomes a little confusing, as the real world and spirit world begin to cloud. It is sometimes difficult to follow the chain of ghosts and what their appearance in Thea's memories mean. However, teens love tales of spirits and haunted places, and coupled with the themes of amnesia and difficult parents, The Dark Garden should hold some appeal.Sharon Korbeck, Waupaca Area Public Library, WI
Originally published in Canada, a first-rate blend of a ghost story and problem novel about Thea, 16, struggling to recover from traumatic amnesia after a bike accident.
Released from the hospital, she returns as a stranger to a dysfunctional family she doesn't remember. She knows their old house, but her memories belong to another time, long before her family lived there. She sees evanescent figures, hears voices, and even seems to be someone else at times. Illness, insanityor a haunting? With help from a sympathetic clergyman and a young, handsome neighbor, Thea uncovers and, in part, relives a long-ago tragedy involving a romantic triangle, a murder, and a madman. She also intercedes with her self-absorbed parents to free herself and her troubled younger sisters from the burden of their neglect. From material that might have become melodrama in less skilled hands, Buffie (The Warnings, 1991, etc.) creates a tightly knit, evocatively written, and lushly (but chastely) romantic thriller. The protagonistsliving and deadare distinctly characterized; a once beautiful, now weed-choked garden is simultaneously setting and symbol of lost happiness. Parallels between Thea's plight and that of her ghostly predecessor are clearly but unobtrusively drawn, and vivid sensory writing makes the fluctuations in Thea's state of consciousness perfectly convincing. A verse from Tennyson's "Lady of Shalott," used as an epigraph, is woven through this exceptional entry in what is often a "fluff" genre.