Friday, 11 September 2015

Dandelion Clocks, by Rebecca Westcott

Throughout Dandelion Clocks Liv narrates us through her life from "Thirteen Weeks Before" to "Six Months After". The book begins with a scene that many 11 year olds can relate to; after sneaking out to get her ears pierced, Liv is discovered. then yelled at by her super embarrassing mum in the accessory shop, in front of all the cool girls from school who are going to assume she's a loser. Correctly, because she's nearly 12 and has never had a boyfriend.

When we first meet Liv, she is quite selfish and immature. But she is only 11, so we can forgive her. She spends most of her time avoiding Moronic Louise at school, daydreaming about Ben, taking photographs and keeping her older brother Isaac out of trouble, who has Asperger's Syndrome and gets very agitated if his carefully planned routine is disturbed. Liv doesn't see why she can't have her ears pierced and why she, the younger sibling, has to be the responsible one. Her parents are so uncool and strict and unreasonable.

However, Liv has to grow up fast, and all of her little problems and petty complaints suddenly seem unimportant. It starts with her mum out of the blue showing her how to cook a bolognaise and how to put on make-up, she takes her to buy her first bra (unnecessary as of yet), and loads of new clothes. She takes her to get her ears pierced. Something is wrong- though they're having fun, Liv keeps catching her mum looking sad and she keeps crying all the time- not proper crying, but Liv notices the silent, single tears slide down her cheeks.  We learn, along with Liv, that her mum is really, really ill and is unlikely to get better.

It's through this tragedy and upheaval that Liv's character really starts to develop. We see how much she loves her mum and dad, what good care she takes of her big brother and the talent and passion that she has for photography. It seems contradictory, but it their family seems to grow closer and more united in the face of Rachel's death, and in a way it forces them to really make the most of their strong bonds. Obviously, it also makes everything seem all the more tragic and unfair. Liv is gifted her mum's diaries from when she was 12, in the hope that there might be answers in there when her mum isn't around to ask...These diaries give us (and Liv) insight into the life of a pre-teen Circe 1989 and it shows us that being 11 is stressful and excruciating and full of the same embarrassments and anxieties, whether its in the 50s, the 90s or the 00s.

I love how relatable this book was and how ordinary all its characters seem. The sudden loss of a family member is something that can and does happen to anyone, and the ordinariness of Liv's home life just reinforces that, Losing somebody so important at such a young age must be impossible to deal with, but I think that she handles it well- hitting rock bottom where even getting out of bed seems impossible and working up from there. I like that it shows that you don't have to have led an extraordinary life to have an impact on the lives of the people around you.

All in all, it's an emotional but heart-warming story about grief, bereavement and friendship that would appeal to fans of Jacqueline Wilson  and Annabel Pitcher and readers of A Monster Calls. It is sad, there's no getting away from it, but it's also a touching story of picking up the pieces and resolving to carry on with life. There are lots of themes of memory, loss and family and in places it's genuinely funny. Liv's friendship with BFF Alice is well portrayed (Alice is incredibly supportive and gives Liv space when she needs it, but she's there waiting when Liv is able to continue with her life) and I liked that while the book does give Liv a love interest (she is 12 after all, it would be weird if she didn't have some sort of crush) .

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