Half My Life by Diana Noonan
Katie Papahadjis, 16, has no idea why her boyfriend loves her, or why she pays attention to the taunting voice in her head. In her home above her parents' Greek takeaway shop in Newtown, Wellington, Katie's brooding, unapproachable father may offer some clues. But he refuses to talk about the Greek village where he grew up, or the grandmother she has never met.
It is not until Kate is forced to travel to Greece with her parents, that family secrets being to surface. Katie discovers there is a complex, missing piece to her deeply troubled life.
Author Diana Noonan needs no introduction. With more than 100 children's titles under her belt, Noonan knows the formula to write engaging stories.
Half My Life is no different. It's a novel that explores the fragility of families, and the damage that can be wrought when the unresolved issues of one generation shape the lives of the next.
Katie is a complex character, but still believable and realistic. She deals with some intense anxieties and coping methods - but Noonan addresses them in thoughtful, caring ways. Katie's mental health isn't a plotline or a way to provide depth to a character. It forms a vital part of the character and helps inform her decisions and actions. Noonan treats the issues with dignity and respect, rather than just as a quirk or gimmick.
It's also a story about healing, and about migrants - about roots, uplifted lives and the family connections left behind. Noonan splits her time between the Catlins in New Zealand, and a village in Greece. Her descriptions of both countries, and the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the people and culture are perfectly highlighted. Noonan writes about what she knows and as such her descriptions are warm, well developed and authentic.
Half My Life is an interesting and intelligent read for our younger readers.
Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell
OneTree House, RRP $24.00