When Erin’s mother leaves, Erin feels like her world has changed. Neither of her parents listen to her, and she can’t stand it so she starts acting out. When she ends up grounded for the summer holidays and forced to help her father out at a retirement home, Erin thinks that things have gone from bad to worse. Then she meets Martha, who is wheelchair bound and unable to talk. At first Erin isn’t interested in spending any time with her, but she begins to realise that her and Martha may have more in common than she first thought.
Rebecca Westcott is becoming known for her tear-jerker novels for ages 10-12 revolving around family breakdowns. Like Violet Ink and Dandelion Clocks, Five Things They Never Told Me is an enthralling family drama that sweeps the reader up and doesn’t let go until the end. It’s certainly not as sad as Dandelion Clocks (which tore my heart out John Green style), and this time it enters on the relationship between Erin, a stubborn, rebellious thirteen year old girl, and Martha, a wheelchair bound lady in her eighties who is just as stubborn and rebellious as Erin. The narrative voice switches between the two characters, as they find themselves forced to spend time together.
Erin’s relationship with Martha grows throughout the book, as does her friendship with Frog, a boy she meets there. It is these relationships that Westcott cultivates so brilliantly, that it isn’t until the end of the novel that you realise that there is another relationship that has been blossoming in the background – that of Erin and her father. At the beginning of the book, Erin says that she didn’t choose to live with her mum or her dad – she chose to live with her dog Picasso, who happened to live with her dad. By the end of the novel though it is clear that while Erin has been learning about friendship from Martha and Frog, she’s also been growing closer to her father, and that he in turn has begun to listen to her.
Five Things They Never Told Me is a captivating read, and ideal for ages 10-12, or anyone who has ever felt that they don’t have a voice.
REVIEWER: JJ McConnachie
Five Things They Never Told Me, by Rebecca Westcott is published by Penguin, RRP $17.99.