Vikki Wakefield, Ballad for a Mad Girl, Text Publishing, 29 May 2017, 320pp., $19.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781925355291
Being a young adult brings a tumble of emotions and experiences that can make you feel like you are going mad. After losing her mother in tragic circumstances, and having to leave the farm to move into town, seventeen year old Grace Foley finds these feelings are stronger than ever.
Usually the funny girl of the group, with a fierce competitive streak, Grace finds herself drawn so deeply into the twenty-year old mystery of missing Hannah Holt that she begins to lose her sense of self. As she continues to experience unexplained events and encounters, Grace becomes removed from family and friends, until she no longer knows what is real, and what is not. Will she solve the mystery that’s haunting her, or will she lose everything?
Ballad for a Mad Girl is a real page turner. Beautifully written, the reader is left in suspense, wondering whether Grace is struggling with her grief, or if she is really experiencing supernatural encounters inspired by the long missing Hannah Holt. Grace is not always a likeable protagonist, but her determination to discover the small town’s darkest secret compels us to stick with her until the end. The gothic, literary tone adds to the creepy, twisted atmosphere:
“A lone crow drifts in lazy circles above. Overhead, the powerlines are humming, and the pitch is maddening. I cup my hands over my ears, and lean against the tree. My vision is leached of colour, sepia-toned- it’s as if I’m the only person breathing in an abandoned world.”
This book deals with many common young adult themes, including friendship, family, grief and identity, but does so in a fresh way, exploring the pain of loss and growing up. It will appeal broadly to readers who enjoy contemporary young adult fiction, as well as those prefer thrillers and the paranormal. Suitable for readers 15 and up.
Reviewed by Kay Oddone