Wednesday 6 June 2012

158. Divine Clementine by Hayley Smithers-Klerk

Divine Clementine by Hayley Smithers-Klerk
Published May 2012 Random House

From the publisher:

When 16-and-a-half-year-old Clementine Footner witnesses the tragic death of her eccentric aunt Stella, she feels as thought her world will never be the same again. 

Clementine idolised her aunt, and their intimate bond was something she treasured deeply. But after finding and reading Stella's diaries, she learns about a very different woman - an unstable, erratic Stella. This Stella suffered from Bipolar . . . and the whole family knew about it.

Like many teenage girls, Clementine (Clem), feels like her parent's don't understand her, but that's OK because she has Stella.  Her eccentric, wonderful, beautiful Aunt who treats Clem like an equal, who she idolises and can talk to about anything.  When Stella is killed in front of her, Clem's world crumbles.  Nothing anyone can say or do can make her feel better about the death of her favourite person in the whole world, until she reads Stella's diaries.  And then it is Stella herself in these diaries that changes how Clem sees her and how she feels about her.  It also affects how she feels about her parents who knew all along that Stella was sick, but never shared that with her.

This is another book that really gets inside the head of an angry teenage girl.  As an adult reading it I felt  frustrated with Clem's stubbornness and I I just wanted to make her see that  the people around her loved her and all they wanted to do was help.  But Clem doesn't want help from those she feels have betrayed her, and she just backs herself into a corner and she finds she has nowhere to go.  In a last ditch attempt of helping their daughter Clem's parents send her off to stay with her Aunt Penny and her family in the country (Bangangalang), the idea is that Clem will help out with her cousins, as they have a new baby in the house.  This is where things start to change for Clem.

The most amazing character is Auggie, Clem's 6 year old niece, who is precocious beyond words, but so wonderfully charming with it.  The absolute joy, love and kindness that she gets from this 6 year old girl and the love she feels for her in return is what begins to ease Clem out from the horrible place she has been in.

Then there's Thom, the neighbour's son, who she has been roped into helping during her stay in Bangangalang.  Slowly but surely Thom manages to get Clem to let everything out, all of the hurt, grief, anger, betrayal that she feels comes pouring out of her, and she starts to feel happiness again.  

There's information in the back of the book about mental illness, and places that you can contact if you are in need.  This book is about mental illness, and it isn't.  It's a look inside a family that has been affected by mental illness and the toll it can take on a family.  Clem may not have had any idea what Stella was going through, but we learn how much Clem's mother went through supporting her sister throughout her life.  It's also a book about family and how family are always there for you, even when you don't want them to be.

Who will like this book: Girls age 15+
Read it if you like: I'll Tell You Mine by Pip Harry

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