Tuesday 20 March 2012

The Taming of Lilah May

The Taming of Lilah May by Vanessa Curtis (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781847801494
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Lilah is an angry girl. She’s not interested in anything except her classmate Adam, ‘songs, clothes and rage’. The last being uncontrolled since her brother Jay left. But Jay left because Lilah told, and she promised she wouldn’t tell. But she had to because she loved Jay so much and he needed help. And for two years she’s been angry at herself for letting her brother down; for telling about the drugs.

Lilah’s mother is a clown who entertains at kids parties. Her father is a lion-tamer at the local zoo. Both spend too much time outside the home due to their work. This is the main reason that for so long they didn’t address their child’s abnormal behaviour. Now for the last two years they have been mourning his loss, believing him to be dead as he took nothing with him except his mobile. He even left behind his contact lenses.

Lilah has gone from the best to the worst student. She is rude, refuses to do her homework, is disobedient and disinterested in everything except being alone and kicking the walls. Her mother has spent a miserable two years crying at the slightest thing. The family has grown apart while Lilah’s anger has reached unmanageable proportions. Lilah’s father tries to teach her anger management. He buys her a puppy, and even cuts back on his work load and so does his wife, in an attempt to be a normal family again.

Everything seems lost until the day she receives an email from one of Jay’s band members. He has received a missed call from Jay’s phone. Lilah and her parents dare to hope that Jay is alive. After the police track the call, they announce it was from someone who found the phone in the street. Then Lilah’s parents are asked to identify a body they believe to be Jay. But it’s not. And Lilah remains angry. To add to her misery, Bindi betrays her with Adam.

But something happens which gives hope to the family. And life with hope can be reconstructed.

Award-winning author of Zelah Green, Queen of Clean, Vanessa Curtis always addresses difficult and important themes. She has approached her subject with an air of mystery, keeping the reader longing to know her secret. Then she uncovers her theme with a flourish. Here she has addressed the destruction caused to the family unit and the individual by drug use; grief, loss, and loneliness.

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