By Dianne Touchell
Freemantle Press, 2012
A marvellous, but rather uncomfortable novel about two misfits who make a connection via their bedroom windows, and take turns telling their stories.
Creepy, the boy, watches the girl he calls Maud with binoculars, looking into her bedroom. The chapter where we meet her is introduced with lines from Lord Alfred Tennyson's poem 'Maud' (every chapter has a literary quotation), though the text doesn't say this is why he calls her Maud, he just does. He admits from the start that he is in love with her.
Maud is a compulsive hair puller, to the extent where she has bald spots on her head, and eventually draws blood. It doesn't stop with her hair - she pulls her eye lashes, and pubic hair. Her parents are hugely embarrassed of her and take her to a therapist for help, but she seems to sink deeper into her unhappiness, or determination to be herself in spite of their expectations of what she should be/do.
"I am a disappointment. My parents love me but they are disappointed."The bond between the two seems to be strengthened by Creepy's acceptance of her habits, almost relishing them. They put notes up in their windows with brief messages, questions and quotations. I find it hard to put into words the exact nature of the relationship that grows between the two. They are at once strengthened by their growing, though silent, bond, yet sinking deeper into their disfunction.
A strangely compelling story - I felt fascinated by their spiralling difficulties, never able to predict how they would next respond to their circumstances.
I've read a later book by Dianne Touchell for my YA book club - A Small Madness - equally as dark, diving deep into the mind of a young woman in trouble - I couldn't quite believe what she did to solve her problem, so startling, but the group all agreed it was a hell of a read, though definitely not for the faint of heart.
Check out Dianne Touchell's website. She has some good teacher notes on the individual books there as well as talking about her writing career. She has a new book Forgetting Foster, just out too.
I borrowed this book from Auckland Libraries