Twelve-year-old Frankie is nervous, a worrier if there ever was one. But he he's getting by, doing enough thinking and worrying for everyone. That is, until Sydney enters the scene. Free-spirited, fun-loving Sydney, a girl who has been enrolled in 22 schools and whose mother is a high-end prostitute, leads Frankie to question everything. He starts to wonder if maybe his mother's way of life-- she hasn't left their house in 9 years-- isn't normal.
Kate De Goldi, an author from New Zealand, has written a delightful, smart book about a truly unique character. This is not the kind of book to read in one sitting, but rather, one to be savored. While Frankie is twelve, he is by no means your average twelve-year-old, and this book would best be enjoyed by teens and adults. The characters in this book are exceptionally well-developed, from Frankie's siblings to his dad who walks around naked, to his three aunts, to his cat, Fat Controller. Frankie's mother's dilemma is painfully realized by everyone around her, and yet the moments we share with her show just how complex she is. She has a deep awareness of what she wants for her son, and yet she is completely incapacitated to make any changes in her own life. The way her story plays out over the course of the book is absolutely brilliant. I love how De Goldi engages the bigger themes that anyone can relate to, such as the natural fear of becoming your parents.
But perhaps what I enjoyed most about this book is the writing. De Goldi is such a skilled storyteller, employing a great slow crescendo in the story. I especially love the way she details Frankie's little "horrors" in a way that shows how understandable, but also how funny they are. Readers will be able to relate to these sentiments. It's just that Frankie feels them at a much higher magnitude than the average person. I particularly enjoyed when Frankie related the horror at the public pool:
"And last Saturday when they'd been there he'd had his annual unsavory collision with a Band-Aid. There was nothing more revolting in Frankie's view than freestyling your way, innocent and blissful, into the path of a used Band-Aid. In Frankie's private hierarchy of squeamish experiences, the casual caress of a stained Band-Ad was right up there with accidentally catching the sight of writing maggots in a forgotten rubbish bag. He'd had to get out of the pool immediately last Saturday and lie on his towel in the sun to recover" (p. 30).
Oh, Frankie. He's a delight in precisely the same vein as Sheldon Cooper. So particular about things!
RIYL (Read If You Like): The Big Bang Theory and/or thoughtful books.