Title: Ballad For A Mad Girl by Vicki Wakefield.
Publisher: Text Publishing
Date Published: 29th May 2017
Genre: Young Adult.
Everyone knows seventeen-year-old Grace Foley is a bit mad. She’s a prankster and a risk-taker, and she’s not afraid of anything—except losing. As part of the long-running feud between two local schools in Swanston, Grace accepts a challenge to walk the pipe. That night she experiences something she can’t explain.
The funny girl isn’t laughing any more. She’s haunted by voices and visions—but nobody believes a girl who cries wolf.
As she’s drawn deeper into a twenty-year-old mystery surrounding missing girl Hannah Holt, the thin veil between this world and the next begins to slip. She can no longer tell what’s real or imagined—all she knows is the ghosts of Swanston, including that of her own mother, are restless. It seems one of them has granted her an extraordinary gift at a terrible price.
Everything about her is changing—her body, her thoughts, even her actions seem to belong to a stranger. Grace is losing herself, and her friends don’t understand. Is she moving closer to the truth? Or is she heading for madness?
I trace the word with my finger. It shimmers. A sharp impact near my ribs knocks me sideways and the pipe seems to buckle and twist. My legs lose grip. Close by, someone is sobbing as if their heart could break.
On the surface Grace Foley is a risk-taker, a prankster, a troublemaker but in reality she’s struggling. Her dad moved them from the farm she grew up on to a ‘cardboard house’ after the death of her mum, while her friends seem to be moving on without her.
She accepts a challenge to walk across a pipe, something she’s done several times before but something strange happens. Slowly her grip on reality seems to be fading, she’s seeing things, experiencing things she could never have known about and it’s all linked to the mysterious disappearance of Hannah Holt twenty-three years ago.
I can’t tell you how much I loved this book, I’ve been looking for a good spooky story for ages. It’s part mystery, part ghost story, set against the back drop of high school.
At first I was a little confused, I thought it was set in the US, as most YA books seem to be nowadays, but they used words like bloody, pub and they wore school uniforms, it turns out it’s set in Australia which made a welcome change.
Then we have Grace. The whole book is written in the first person, from Grace’s perspective, which usual I’m not a fan of, they are usually slightly whiny, but I thought she was a fantastic character. Okay she’s moody, grumpy and a little self centred but to me she felt like a real teenager and I really liked her.
The book was creepy, atmospheric and very realistic, it even made me feel a little emotional at times. There’s also some wonderful description, one of my favourite is:
‘He’s got a long line running through the middle of his forehead, as if somebody ironed a perfect crease there.’
And even a harden fan of crime fiction like myself, didn’t see any of the twists in the story coming! I will definitely be reading more from this author in the future.
Vikki Wakefield’s first YA novel, All I Ever Wanted, won the 2012 Adelaide Festival Literary Award for YA Fiction, as did her second novel, Friday Brown, in 2014. Friday Brown was also an Honour Book at the Children’s Book Council of Australia, in 2013, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Prime Minister’s Awards. Vikki’s third novel, Inbetween Days, was Highly Commended in the 2016 Barbara Jefferis Award, was a 2016 CBCA Honour Book and was shortlisted for the 2016 Prime Minister’s Awards. Vikki lives in the Adelaide foothills with her family.