Title: A Small madness
Author: Dianne Touchell
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Opens: He’d eaten an orange.
My Thoughts: I finished A SMALL MADNESS by Dianne Touchell a few days ago and have been mulling over my review ever since. I worry that I am not going to do it the justice it deserves, so in a nutshell – WOW, fabulous, thought provoking, confronting, heartbreaking, unputdownable, all in all an absolutely amazing story about teen pregnancy, family relationships and mental issues. I have already earmarked as one of my top reads for this year, if not the top one!! So those few words that I jotted down while reading should cover my thoughts if the review doesn’t do it justice!
A SMALL MADNESS opens as Rose and Michael have sex for the first time – they are in their last year of High School, in love and ready to go to that next level after dating for a while. Afterwards, Rose can’t believe that no-one can tell that she has become a woman; that she has gone all the way. They didn’t use protection – even though both of them were prepared – but hey, no-one gets pregnant the first time! Well she does, and this is where the bubble bursts and the madness starts as she is ill-equipped mentally to deal with the reality of her situation. A SMALL MADNESS is told in the third person of the main characters so you get to see why they do the things they do. Rose decides that the pregnancy isn’t happening – that she has a virus. She is learning about viruses in Biology and viruses can be destroyed and go away. This sets her on the winding road downhill to madness as she decides if she ignores the reality and treats the situation as a virus, it will all go away and everything will be ok. As she is not pregnant she doesn’t need help.
…I’ve worked it out. We won’t tell anyone. No one could help us anyway. I can hide it. It’s not real….These things go away all the time…
This denial of pregnancy is not as implausible as it sounds. In fact the idea for the plot came from a newspaper article that author Dianne Touchell read while in the USA – in an promotional interview she said “society gathered their metaphoric torches and pitchforks,” and assassinated the characters of the young couple in the centre of the uproar; her heart went out to the couple. A quick google on the subject of denial of pregnancy produces stats which indicate that denial of a pregnancy at 20 weeks’ gestation or later occurs in one in 475 pregnancies. That is a lot, and they are not all teenagers, and they are certainly not bad women, they are women who need help so desperately, but don’t recognise that they do.
…She was a good person. And she was as genuinely appalled as everyone else by speculative descriptions of the monster who must have done this dreadful thing in the bush. Because it wasn’t her…
A SMALL MADNESS is not an easy book to read, but it is not heavy reading, if that makes sense. You know something bad is going to happen but it’s like being a rabbit in car headlights you can’t take your eyes off the pages. Rose and Michael are likable characters – despite what they did. They are emotionally fragile, rather than evil, and all I felt was sympathy and concern. The open ending worked for me because they are both starting out and once they have gotten over this huge bump in the road they will go on with their lives. The reader is gently brought to the realisation that life isn’t black or white – quite often there is grey – and with the grey must come compassion. Although confronting, full of drama and angst, and not sugar-coated in any way, I cannot recommend this book more highly.
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A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.
With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $16.99