Teena Raffa-Mulligan, Monelli & Me, Sea Song Publications, March 2020, 290 pp., RRP $19.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780648534600
When Kate rushes to answer the phone one afternoon after school, she doesn’t expect the unknown voice to shock her by announcing that he is Nick Monelli , her biological father who is coming to Perth for work and wants to visit. He also wants Kate return with him to Brisbane to meet her other, sick grandmother. With that news the world she has known so far is shattered. Why has her mother lied? Her beloved Dad is not her father. Her loving Nanna Hannah is not really her grandmother. How can this be, and how can she cope? At first, she is angry with everyone for the deception, and she transforms into a ranting and moody teenager but slowly her personality emerges.
When Nick arrives in Perth, Dad invites him to stay. Would this really happen? But it is a device which allows the relationships to work out in one place. Kate begins to understand Monelli’s point of view and respect him for who he is. She is less forgiving of her parents but that eventually comes. There is also a love interest in Kate’s friendship with the supportive Josh Perrin. I was not as convinced by the friendship with her best friend Lisa, nor by Lisa’s crush on Monelli.
This novel is mainly about family relationships, that they can be strong as well as fragile, occasionally transitory, and there must be lots of humour, give and take for everyone involved to remain connected. Throughout the story, Kate learns who she is and realises that she can be daughter to both her wonderful Dad and her new father. She also learns to understand her friendship with Lisa. For the classroom situation, there are lots of discussion points: about relationships and self-identity; whether and why Kate’s mother should have made the decision about keeping Kate’s paternity a secret; school friendships and where schoolwork fits in. Raffa-Mulligan also manages to leave the reader with some uncertainty about what happens to her (mostly) likeable characters.
Recommended for all readers who enjoy a strong story about relationships.
Reviewed by Maureen Mann
Read the backstory to writing Monelli & Me here