REVIEW: Girlhood - Cat Clarke

Girlhood - Cat Clarke
Published by Quercus Children's Books on 4 May 2017
Book depository purchase link.
My rating: 4/5

It's been a long time since I read a boarding school novel and since finishing Girlhood I've been wondering, why? The intensity of emotions, the independence and the mystery that comes with boarding schools make them excellent scopes for novels. 

Girlhood is about Harper, who lost her twin sister Jenna to anorexia and ended up going to boarding school. She has a wonderful group of friends but a new girl, Kirsty, is about to change everything. Harper thought she was coping with everything pretty well. She's not as rich as most of the other girls and she's holding her grief in tightly. But, Kirsty has questions and secrets of her own. You know what they say, nothing stays secret in a boarding school.

The friendship dynamics make this story. Lily, Rowan, and Ama aren't particularly amazing or likeable characters, but it's their humour and their bond that makes them attractive. I rarely laugh out loud whilst reading but these girls had some serious wit. Their fast-paced dialogue and complete confidence made them a joy to read. They also provided a really interesting contrast to Harper, who bridges the gap between the girls and Kirsty.

Kirsty, more than anyone, seems to get Harper. She understands and she's a great listener. Something is not quite right and no matter how (frustratingly at times) Harper overlooks it, it's undeniable. I would have liked to have heard more about Kirsty's backstory and her behaviour because I didn't find the answers satisfying enough. I had more why questions. The same goes for the way Harper told Jenna's story. Jenna's life seems to start with her death and I liked how the novel kept flickering back to reveal more information but halfway through this stopped. I was waiting and waiting to hear more about the deterioration but it never came.

Grief is such a huge topic to take on and, overall, Cat Clarke does it well. There's one point when Harper talks about how when the worst thing has already happened to you, you should be able to go through anything, but it's not true. Small things can still get you down. Messages like that, and about nullifying blame, embracing acceptance and the importance of memories, make this a novel that I hope will help many young people.

When you're that age, you are often experiencing grief for the first time. That loss can affect everyone close to you, like your friends and family, and it can be really tough to find someone to talk to. For Harper, she feels like she can't go on and on about Jenna's death to her friends, like they will get sick of it. Her misguided paranoia and the development of her grief was exactly right, even though it was predictable. Sometimes you want a story to do exactly what you expect from it.

I hope many people pick up Girlhood because it was an absolute page turner and an eye opener to the contrasting ways grief is experienced.

Love, Jess

Thank you to the publisher for my copy.

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