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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Brigitte Blobel
Age Range: 14+
Mara’s life is spiralling out of control. Things are not easy at school, but far worse is what waits for her at the end of the day – a filthy flat on a rundown estate, a violent alcoholic father and an agoraphobic mother who has barely stepped outside in five years. Mara’s older sister has already escaped the horror of the situation, leaving Mara to try to struggle on alone, as her life disintegrates around her. The fifteen-year-old is consumed by regular bouts of uncontrollable rage. Her only survival strategy is to deflect her bitterness and frustration onto the world around her, viciously lashing out at those who try to help or befriend her, carrying out acts of violence and playing truant from school. Only two people offer a glimmer of hope – her boyfriend and her teacher, both of whom are reluctant to give up on her.
This is a hard-hitting and yet very readable book, which grips the reader from start to finish. Although Mara is in some ways a very unpleasant character, it is impossible not to find oneself empathising with her tragic situation, and willing her to break out of the downward cycle. While she is essentially a victim (of her ever deteriorating family situation), it is also painfully evident how her own destructive and impulsive behaviour results in Mara isolating herself still further. As the book heads towards its culmination, there is a growing sense of inevitability, as the reader uneasily senses that perhaps it will take something even more disastrous for the vicious circle to be broken. This is a cheerless but thought-provoking book about coping with anger, alienation, family breakdown and self-destruction.