Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Children’s Books: Crossing the Line by Dianne Bates

Seventeen-year-old Sophie is intelligent, good at her studies and a fine poet. She also cuts herself when she’s feeling stressed. And she has plenty about which to feel stressed. She has been fostered since early childhood, after losing first her neglectful mother, then her beloved aunt and uncle when they divorced. She has been with one foster-family after another, constantly changing schools and unable to make friends because she keeps moving.

Now it seems things will improve, since she has been allowed some independence and has started sharing a house with the likeable and kind-hearted Amy and Matt. She’s made friends at her new school and is hoping to finish her last year.

Will these be enough for a girl who feels a desperate need for family -- especially a mother? A spell in a mental hospital introduces her to psychiatrist Helen Marshall, to whom she clings, mistaking treatment for affection.

Can her new friends help her? Will Matt’s affection be enough?

Sophie is a lucky girl, actually, to have friends as patient as Amy and Matt. There were times in the book when I felt like telling her to get over it. The first-person narrative worked well, however, making it easier to understand what was going on in her head.

Self-harm has become known as the new anorexia among teenage girls. It has been estimated that one in ten girls in Australia is a self-harmer. Girls who feel they have no control over their lives may cut because that’s something they can control. Sophie does it as a form of release, or even a tribute, in the form of initials cut into her arm. It’s a major issue in this day and age and veteran Australian children’s and young adult writer Dianne Bates handles it well, in a readable and gripping book. The characters and storyline are believable. I believe Crossing the Line (Ford Street Publishing) will make it into classrooms, as it includes a lot of material for discussion.

Highly recommended.

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