Monday 2 March 2015

Scribbles in the Dark

Scribbles in the Dark by Northern Beach Writers’ Group (Self-Published) 
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-0-9942006-0-0
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

The Northern Beach Writers’ Group (NBWG) is a fascinating project. Founded in 2009 by Zena Shapter, the group started meeting once a month as a critique group consisting of local writers. Now, in 2014 the NBWG has two award-winning published books under their belts and more in the pipelines, and the heartbeat of the group is driven by a commitment to its local arts community and literary-based philanthropic projects.

This particular book arose from the competition, Write-a-Book-in-a-Day to raise money for the Kids Cancer Project. When the opportunity arose to review this book I was fascinated to discover how six authors, two editors and two illustrators could make the story work. And I quickly discovered how.

Scribbles in the Dark, is a gripping read from start to finish, with all the elements of a good story twisted together in its 78 pages. From the very first moment, we are thrown into the world of Cal, a fourteen-year-old boy whose father has disappeared and is living with his grandparents in a pub in outback Australia. Cal seeks reprieve from the pain of losing his father in carving rocks and keeps one of his rocks particularly close to his heart – a dinosaur shaped one that he found right on the spot where his father disappeared on the mysterious banks of the billabong. His other reprieve is Jake, his foster brother who seemingly appeared on their doorstep from nowhere.

One day, in a bid to escape the suffocating noise of the pub, Cal sneaks out down to the billabong in search of more rocks to carve. Unbeknownst to Cal, the air of the Billabong was changing and it wasn’t until Jake arrived that he realised the rains were coming. The same rains suspected of taking his father from him. Before the two can escape, they are washed far out along the river to a place that neither of them knows. They quickly realise that this is a place far removed from their usual life, another realm. Not long after arriving in this new place somewhere over the rainbow, Jake and Cal are attacked by a young girl named Dawn who is protecting herself. Once Dawn realises the boys are not there to harm her, she starts telling them of the history of the place – the scribbles that come to life at night and take people who step out of the circle, the strange tribes that live in the distances, the man who had looked after her for many years before he was taken by the scribbles and the strange connections of the dinosaur rock.

With all the stories Dawn tells them, and as they try to find a way to get back to the other side, Jake and Cal start to realise that this place holds many connections to their past life – Dawn is a girl who disappeared from the town years ago, the man who looked after her is Cal’s father, the dinosaur rock Cal found on the day his father died is their key out of there and this is the place that Jake appeared out of nowhere from.

Scribbles in the Dark is not only a gripping, fantastical read that you’ll not want to put down but it is rippled with many strong messages pertinent to young people and adults alike – dealing with loss and grief, belonging, family bonds and connectedness. The characters are rich with back stories that are cleverly woven through the story arc and the subplots make this novella even more gripping. For a book that was written in a day, Scribbles in the Dark is an exciting and inspiring read and one with a social conscience too (with fifty percent of all profits going straight back into The Kids Cancer Project.) Read it and enjoy the ride.

Scribbles in the Dark is sold mainly on the Northern Beaches in Dee Why and Mona Vale's Berkelouw, plus Brookvale's Dymocks.  Online the links are and from Amazon although it is also available from Fishpond, Booktopia and all other good online retailers.

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