Thursday 2 April 2015

The Pause

The Pause by John Larkin (Random House)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978-0-85798-170-7
Reviewed by Jaquelyn Muller

At the end of the first paragraph in John Larkin’s new YA novel, The Pause, the central character Declan O’Malley declares he is going to kill himself in five hours’ time!  My immediate reaction is to run for the tissues! However, I say this to anyone who finds the subject of suicide confronting, (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) PLEASE don’t let it scare you off.

What quickly develops is a personally narrated account from a seventeen-year-old boy, who could be anyone we know; complete with a smart mouth, individual styling challenges, raging hormones and an aversion to verbal communication.

The ‘now-that-I-have-your-attention’ introduction gives Declan a platform to weave his story of inner torment, repressed family secrets and the loss of love. Larkin’s clever use of time specific chapters help pace the story that commands your attention to the very end in unexpected ways.

While it is easy to assume this book is one of misery and lost hope, Declan’s seventeen year old voice and sense of irony pepper many funny, light-hearted moments that ultimately illustrate life is worth stuffing up every now and then. In the tradition of It’s a Wonderful LifeA Christmas Carol, or more recently Sliding Doors, The Pause merely asks you to do just that, stop and consider this world without you, (I know in my case my husband’s sense of humour would be non-existent and quinoa sales would not be what they are). 

Through the humour and warmth developed for the characters over the story’s 20 year span, Larkin makes this otherwise difficult topic consumable for the YA reader and with the added reading group questions at the back of the book, promotes a well overdue dialogue that will hopefully be explored in schools.  The Pause is set to follow on from the success of Larkin’s 2011 novel, The Shadow Girl which won the 2012 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Writing for Young Adults. 

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