Sylvie the Second by Kaeli Baker, Makaro Press
Kaeli Baker is the pen name of a young Auckland writer who has worked in the area of youth psychiatric care. This is her first novel for young adult readers (it’s suitable for readers over 15) and it deals with important teen issues such as rape, mental illness, attempted suicide, self-harm, and family breakups. Heavy stuff indeed. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book – but it was definitely an absorbing (and at times uplifting) read. This author can write, dealing with dire topics using a light and skilful touch.
Fifteen-year-old Sylvie hates her life. Her older sister, whom she calls Calamity Cate, has severe mental health issues, and Sylvie feels totally overlooked by her stressed parents. Cynically, she calls her mother Pamela Panic and her father Damn-It-All Dave.
Sylvie gives herself a makeover in an attempt to turn herself into someone different. But she attends a sleazy party and ends up being raped by a boy from school. She tries to forget what happened – but the horror of it stays with her and she begins to cut herself. Fortunately her best friend Belle helps her through this crisis – and a decent boy called Adam (who is Sylvie’s secret passion) restores her faith in herself and life in general.
I can see this book finding favour with many teenage girls. Sadly, there are girls out there who have experienced such problems in one way or another. It should definitely be available in YA collections in public libraries, and in the senior collections in secondary school libraries.
ISBN 978 0 9941065 3 7 $25 PbReviewed by Lorraine Orman