Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Kite Spirit, by Sita Brahmachari

Boisterous free spirit Kite's world falls apart on the day that she sits her first GCSE exam.  Her best friend, gifted musician and serial over-achiever Dawn tragically and unexpectedly kills herself.  Devastated, Kite retreats with her hippie musician father to the Lake District to get some space and start to come to terms with her loss.

Finding that she eats and sleeps better in the Lakes, Kite becomes convinced that she can feel the ghostly presence of Dawn.  Soothed by this presence, Kite begins to find herself again and thanks to the unexpected friendship of some of the locals she begins to start her emotional recovery.  She will never be the same without Dawn, but she learns how to be the post-Dawn version of herself.

Character was probably one of the greatest strengths of this novel, each felt like they had been laboured over and carefully considered.  There are only a handful of characters in the book, but each was a unique person, and each contributed to the narrative greatly and served a purpose in Kite's recovery.  It's apparent from the first page that Kite and Dawn are chalk and cheese. Both are believable, sympathetic characters that are incredibly easy to like and to read about. Kite's parents too are wonderfully well written too- brilliantly eccentric and full of colour, concern and individuality.  They really brought the book to life, demonstrating how Kite came to be so spirited and carefree, once.

The book handles the topic of teen suicide very delicately, though I do think it might be a little intense for younger readers.  It does not dwell greatly on the suicide, but instead focuses on the aftermath; the effect on family and friends, the picking up of the pieces.  The portrayal of grief, disbelief and hopeless rage are done with such skill.  Every reaction is plausible and seeing the characters struggle with their pent up emotions is genuinely difficult.  It's a sensitive and emotional book that forces the reader to experience some of Kite's pain and the anxiety of her family.

They style of prose is simple, but evocative and really well crafted.  Kite is pretty monosyllabic in places, and full of words and feelings in others, I was genuinely impressed at what a complex character she was, but how easy she was to understand.  The beautiful scenery of the Lakes is depicted in loving detail and the contrasts between Kite and Dawn, Old Kite and New Kite and Cumbria and London is enforced throughout...the theme of binary opposites definitely came through strongly.

Though I was really loved the way the book was written, and was thoroughly impressed with the content and the characters, I can't help but be a little concerned with the love interest 'solution'.  I could be wrong, and I hope I am, because it seems such a shame to spoil such a powerful story, but there is an implication that finding the 'perfect guy' is the solution to all of life's problems.  Personally I would have preferred Kite to have found her answers and her peace and calm by making her own choices and accepting her friend's death on her own terms, rather than by finding a boyfriend.

But that's not enough to spoil it.  It's too well written, and sometimes the support of others can be what gets you through life's difficult chapters.

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