Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Review: The 10pm Question - Kate de Goldi
Extent: 245 pages
Pub Date: 1st March 2011
Twelve-year-old Frankie Parsons is a talented kid with a quirky family, a best friend named Gigs, and a voice of anxiety constantly nibbling in his head: Could that kidney-shaped spot on his chest be a galloping cancer? Are the smoke alarm batteries flat? Has his cat, The Fat Controller, given them all worms? Only Ma, who never leaves home, takes Frankie’s worries seriously. But then, it is Ma who is the cause of the most troubling question of all, the one Frankie can never bring himself to ask. When a new girl arrives at school--a daring free spirit with unavoidable questions of her own--Frankie’s carefully guarded world begins to unravel, leading him to a painful confrontation with the ultimate 10 p.m. question. Deftly told with humor, poignancy, and an endearing cast of characters, The 10pm Question will touch everyone who has ever felt set apart.
Worry-prone Frankie keeps his family secret under control--until a bold, inquisitive girl enters his life--in this warm, witty, and captivating YA novel.
I rarely call a book a gem because I’m always waiting for a book like The 10pm Question to come along before I do. My gems have to be completely understated and not well known but 100% worth reading – and here is a book that fulfils all those criteria.
The story follows Frankie Parsons who is afflicted to some degree with OCD and suffers from an anxiety disorder. His character is so carefully put together and so beautifully written I was not long into the book before I was completely immersed in his story and utterly attached to him. As a teenager I had an anxiety disorder so I could really sympathise with Frankie and can say from experience that Kate de Goldi has caught his problems so expertly yet so delicately at the same time. Nothing ever leaps out and smacks you in the face, the author uses a perfect level of sensitivity, mixing in a wonderfully subtle wit to create a delicious story that you can make up your own mind about. It’s one of those that doesn’t expressly tell you what it’s trying to achieve it just opens up the floor for debate and lets you think and make your own decisions.
Frankie is not the only great character, all of Kate de Goldi’s characters are immaculately formed and loveable in their own unique way. They feel like real people; nobody has special powers or overwhelming destinies to fulfil, they are just normal people with all the flaws and oddities that normal people have. The 10pm Question is really like a slice of life, like you’ve fallen into a fly-on-the-wall documentary and you get to see all the colours of life, all the textures of humanity, and all the shades of internal conflict. This is probably best demonstrated in the actual 10pm questions that Frankie poses to Ma. It’s almost like thought for the day but through the eyes of a twelve-year-old. These moments at the end of each chapter are like Frankie’s little reconciliations with life. They are the point in the day when Frankie connects most with his mentally ill mother, who is the source of all his anxiety, and they are without a doubt some of the most touching scenes I have ever read in a book. Ma clearly cares deeply for her son but due to her illness it is hard for her to show it by being a “proper” mother, but in these moments she can do something for Frankie, she can try to allay some of his worries and fears and she is, despite everything, the one person in Frankie’s life who can actually do so.
If you haven’t heard of The 10pm Question before I’m actually quite glad. It’s the kind of book I just want to wrap up, take with me everywhere I go and never let anyone else read it because it’s such a personal story. Having said that, if you don’t read it, you’ll be seriously missing out on one of the most touching, caring, witty, beautiful stories you will ever have the pleasure to read.