Jack lives with his dad and his older sister. He’s sixteen. As he tells us in this Australian novel in verse,
I’m a normal guy.
An average sixteen-year old.
I think about sex, sport, & nose hair.
His mother died of cancer seven years ago, and now:
There’s a ghost in our house
in a red evening dress
and Mum’s slingback shoes
her hair whispers
over white shoulders
as she dances through the rooms.
What will it take to exorcise Jack’s ghost? Annabel, who’s smart and funny, and understand Jack. It’ll take love, and sex, and a bit more time before Jack’s ready to let his ghost go.
This is a sparse, poignant story told in blank-verse poems. Steven Herrick gets a lot across in a very few words, from Jack’s grief and bitterness over his mother’s death and the hole she’s left in their family to his crush on and eventual romance with Annabel. I especially liked his sister Desiree–smart, cynical and caring, and willing to explain sex to her younger brother in less than fifty words. The only thing that confused me a bit is that the narrator sometimes jumps from one poem to the next–all of a sudden, it’s Jack’s father talking, or Annabel, and it take a minute to figure that out. All in all though, it’s well written with some truly excellent moments–but I’m not sure many teenage guys will willingly pick it up since it’s written in poems, which is a shame.