I was having a bad day when I began reading Jellicle Girl. It happens, it’s okay now. The reason I mention it is that I didn’t read the blurb before picking this book. All I saw was that it had been written by Stevie Mikayne and since I love her Jil Kidd series, I didn’t look any further. Do not do what I did. This is not a book you can read whenever. It deserves your full attention and it will get under your skin if you’re even just a little raw.
Beth left her mother’s house as soon as it was legally possible. At seventeen, she’s squatting her absentee father’s place, going to university and working in a group home for children who are at least as broken as she is. Mandatory support therapy is part of the bridge program that took her early to university, so she goes head to head with the no-nonsense Dr Nancy Sullivan on a weekly basis. Like Grizabella in Cats, she’s hoping for her own Jellicle Transformation, the day she’ll leave this person behind and become someone else. She can’t picture her future because she can’t let go of her past, namely what happened with Jackie at camp two summers ago.
First published in 2012, Jellicle Girl is Stevie Mikayne’s debut and it’s both brilliant and disturbing. It totally spoke to the teenager that never left my brain, and brought back all the angst and malaise of that time. I could have done without that, but I can’t fault the author for writing it so well.
This novel is reminiscent of one of the best films I never want to watch again, Girl Interrupted, and of the book that shaped my adolescence, J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. It also reminded me of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys. It’s full of teenage angst, internalized homophobia, life and death, terrible parents and too-smart-for-their-own-good kids.
I’ve been known to rate a tad too generously books that make my heart happy, and I hesitated to give this one the 5* it probably deserves, because it made my heart want to explode, not with love and joyous feelings but with pain. I don’t know, maybe I’m overrating it out of fear of underrating it. So, facts: the writing is excellent, the characters are complex and relatable, the pace is a bit slow at times but not overly so, the story feels real. Read it, but choose the right time.