Wednesday 19 October 2011

The Shadow Girl

The Shadow Girl by John Larkin (Random House)
PB RRP $18.95
ISBN 978-1-8647-1875-1
Reviewed by Oliver Phommavanh

The Shadow Girl is a novel for older readers but it’s back story may overshadow the actual book. John Larkin met a homeless girl during a school visit and started a dialogue that became the crux of the story. Shadow girl tells her story of how she became homeless and survived life on the streets. In between chapters are transcripts of recorded conversations with Larkin.

Shadow girl’s anonymity means that this story never holds back. It might echo with some readers when she escapes her abusive uncle and auntie. That fear of home not being safe is powerful. Her first few days on the streets are a real page turner. It’s a mix of tense moments that will stay with the reader. Shadow girl’s determination grows with a handful of allies who help her in key moments. Her fight to stay in school and to keep learning is truly inspiring. Her faith is tested but she finds resolve.

But the gripping fear for Shadow girl and the reader never goes away until the very end. I really enjoyed Larkin’s input in this story, it’s distant enough to let Shadow girl tell her story but he also asks questions that readers would be dying to know about.

The Shadow Girl contains some coarse language and glimpses of violence. It’s a raw and honest story that needed to be told. Larkin captures her essence effortlessly. Readers may not know her name but they’ll know her inside out. Highly recommended for ages 15 and up.     

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