Tag Archives: realistic

The Protected by Claire Zorn

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protectedcoverThe Protected by Claire Zorn, paperback novel, 254 pages, published by University of Queensland Press in 2014.

Life for Hannah is far from normal. It’s only been a year since her sister died, her father was crippled and her mother disappeared into herself. Life was crap for Hannah even before Katie died. She was being severely bullied by the kids at school, harassed, assaulted, cyber-bullied. Having a dead sister has stopped the bullying, but her wounds will take a long time to heal. Her life is screwed up as she paddles the deep waters of grief and guilt and pain. Though her days are dark, some hope seeps into her life when new boy, Josh, takes an interest in her, and she begins to build a rapport with the school counsellor.

I loved Claire Zorn’s previous book, The Sky So Heavy, but I love The Protected even more. It was a heart-rending tale of loss and survival, of guilt and hope. Tears may have been spilt whilst reading… but there were hopeful smiles too. The plot was compelling and very realistic. I read it quickly and thought about it for quite a while after I’d finished.

After the accident, Hannah’s parents were broken. Her father was physically crippled from his injuries, and her mother fell into her grief and forgot to keep living. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of losing a child, but they still had Hannah, and she needed them more than ever. They failed her. I can’t help thinking that Katie was their mother’s favourite, and because she couldn’t move forward, she almost lost both her daughters. What incredibly engulfing pain she must have been in to let Hannah down like this. I feel sad just thinking about it. This was a realistic insight into what the loss of a child can do to the family unit.

Hannah got under my skin, she kept me awake at night, she made me feel her pain, her guilt, her grief, her burden, her loneliness. And then from the depths she made me feel hope. I felt compassion for Hannah, but I also liked her. She was quiet and studious, but she was also full of strength. She was rather distrustful of Josh at first, but I liked the way that he persisted in getting to know her for her, irrespective of what the other kids thought.

I didn’t really like Katie. She seemed superficial, egotistical and selfish, but she probably would have grown past that had she survived her teenage years. Her relationship with Hannah might have had a chance to improve beyond high school, but during their teen years, Katie was pretty mean to Hannah. She was more concerned with her image than with how her sister was coping with school, with the fact that she had no friends, with the intense bullying. How does a sister watch that and not try to help? Hannah always lived in her sister’s shadow, and even in death Katie lingered over her.

The Protected is an incredible book that should be read by all Australian high school students. I thoroughly recommend it. I am excited to see what Claire Zorn produces next!

* The Protected was the winner of the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Older Readers category.

Iris by Toni Owen-Blue

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iriscoverIris by Toni Owen-Blue, e-book, 85 pages, published by Blue Books in 2016.

Iris is just a child, she thinks of herself as a bit weird, and to the outside world she is pretty average. Behind the closed doors of her house, her family life is anything but normal. Her mother works in surgery and keeps odd hours, while her father is always holed up in the home office working. This leaves Iris in charge of her younger brother, Waltz. She makes him dinner, bathes him, supervises his homework and puts him to bed. Along with her schoolwork and the housework, that is Iris’ whole life. Then Lotus arrives. Lotus immediately befriends Iris, and for the first time in her life, Iris sees how other mums treat their daughters, and it contrasts dramatically with her own experience.

Written in first person from Iris’ perspective, this novel is short, but it packs a big punch. It touched my heart. I felt great sadness and anger, the end brought tears. As the story progressed I became angrier and angrier with Iris’ mother. The way she treats Iris is horrifying. Neglect, emotional and physical abuse. Iris is always having ‘accidents’ at her mother’s hands, believing that she is stupid, fat and useless because that is what she is told every day. And she has far too much responsibility for her age. No one that young should have to raise their younger sibling, ever. When does she get to be a kid?

She talks about her Dad working in the annexe office but he is not in the story. We never see him interact with Iris and Waltz, he never prepares their meals or puts them to bed. He is there, but not, absent from their lives because his work is more important than his family. And it seems that their mother is not there much either, and when she is, she is shaming Iris, guilting her, hurting her, making her feel worthless. What kind of parents are they? They should never have had kids.

Iris is well written and incredibly realistic. The subject matter made it, at times, difficult to read. There were times when I didn’t want to know what else would happen to Iris, but I haboured hope that she would escape her situation. I read this emotional tale knowing that there are too many children in the world suffering as Iris does, but I had to know how Iris’ story ended.

This story raises awareness of an issue that is often undetected or ignored. Iris’ mum was good at putting on an act for other people to hide how she was treating Iris and Waltz, and she was good at making Iris feel guilty and ashamed. These feelings, along with the natural love she has for her mother kept her from telling anyone what was happening. Lotus’ mum knew something wasn’t right, but she didn’t speak up. She may have felt it wasn’t her place to interfere, or that she was over-reacting, or even that Iris somehow deserved it. And did the teachers never wonder about Iris? They must have seen the bruises, seen her lack of confidence and belief that she is stupid and useless. And so, child abuse can fly below the radar, damaging the child sometimes beyond repair.

Iris is suitable for upper primary and high school children. It may be good for young readers to discuss the themes with an adult, as it is quite confronting. Iris will pull your heart-strings, make you want to swoop in, bundle her in your arms and save her, want to save all the children that suffer at the hands of their parents. This poignant story will stay close to your heart for years to come. If you can help an Iris, somehow, somewhere, please do it, no child deserves that.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.