Daisy Radcliffe shines.
Of course, it often takes serious burnishing, considerable friction, to bring out a shine. Vigorous scrubbing with Brasso puts a high gloss on a copper kettle, so look at it this way — sometimes LOTP (Life On This Planet) is the Brasso that puts a shine on our double-T butts, so to speak, eh b’ys?
For Daisy Radcliffe, the heroine of Even Weirder Than Before [Breakwater Books], adolescence’s myriad rites of passage are the Brasso that brings out her glow.
Yes b’ys, events within, and paralleling, Daisy’s high school years give her an abrasive polishing.
Even in Junior High — Middle School? — Mean Girls give Daisy a hard time. For instance, Mean Ol’ Candice smears Daisy’s backpack with dog whoopsie.
Feeling nervous and self-conscious, Daisy and her classmates are taken on an orientation tour of their future high school where the older kids look “alarmingly” adult. Those older students stare at the novices and one girl says, “Look how young and cute they are.”
Which reminds me of a story.
One of our granddaughters — a wisp in her own right — had just finished her first week in Grade One. When asked how she was enjoying the new grade she said, “Good. And guess what? The Kindergartens are soooo tiny!”
Not much to do with the friction in Daisy Radcliffe’s life, I admit, but doting Pops will grab at any opportunity to tell a tale, eh b’ys?
On cusp of high school, Daisy’s friend Wanda says, “We’re going to have fun in high school. We’re going to blow everyone’s minds.”
Not nearly as positive — hesitantly uneasy, in fact — Daisy says, “Are we?”
Here’s a thing — Daisy’s father has walked out on his family and is living with his girlfriend Pat. Daisy visits them for supper. She is served rice “saturated with tasteless sauce” and … a gem-dandy image of yucky ingredients — “Pieces of translucent onion that look like the flaps of skin you pull from your feet once a blister has burst.”
Not to forget universal rites of passage: Adolescent sex.
Daisy gets in tack with Jimmy.
In the more delicate days of the distant past, Jimmy might be described as a cad. Suffice to say, in this more forthrightly pejorative age, Jimmy is a bit of an arsehole.
From the perspective of a sagacious grown-up, there are time when you see how Daisy responds to Jimmy’s treatment of her, you’d like to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her, shake her till her teeth clatter.
I ask you though, When has that method ever worked wonders?
Keeping with those rites of passage — there’re unsupervised parties; there’s copious consumption of alcohol; there’s voluminous puking into bushes.
Read all about it.
I’ve said Daisy Radcliffe shines and I’ll stick to that remark. But perhaps it’s more accurate to say that in this novel Daisy “begins” to shine because we know she’ll glow more brightly in the future.
Keep that in mind when you read the final pages of Weirder Than Before …
Daisy and Wanda — now seventeen or eighteen, I don’t remember and I’m too lazy to check it out — are riding on a merry-go-round: “The wind hits us, my horse goes up as Wanda’s goes down.”
Hey, I’ve lived in two centuries. When I read that line, I heard Joni Mitchell singing, “The painted ponies go up and down.” I couldn’t help it. Fitting though, don’t you think?
Daisy asks another friend — Jude — what it’s like to pilot a plane, to fly.
“It feels like closing your eyes,” says Jude, “and falling backwards and knowing you’re never going to hit the ground.”
With this description in mind, I looked at the picture on the book’s cover. At first, I’d thought the girl was swan diving, or something, plummeting face-down, belly-flopping maybe.
But no. she’s falling backwards, trusting she’ll never hit the ground, as if in a cosmic game of “trust” similar to the game in which you fall backwards trusting a friend to catch you.
The final spoken words in this book remind me — kinda — of Rhett Butler’s “Frankly, my dear …” parting remark to Scarlett O’Hara.
Wanda speaks the line and while it isn’t truly in the vein of Rhett’s bon mot (Look at me speaking French!), it is equally as poignant and memorable.
Well, it could be.
What is it?
You’ll have to read and see, won’t you?
Thank you for reading.
— Harold Walters lives in Dunville, Newfoundland, doing his damnedest to live Happily Ever After. Reach him at email@example.com