Are You Seeing Me? – Darren Groth
Imprint: Woolshed Press
Extent: 288 pages
In the past few months I have been slightly disappointed in the Australian YA fiction which I have encountered, as compared to the international ditto.
This book knocked that opinion for six. Darren Groth has written a sensitive, funny and insightful novel that explores themes and issues common to many families in dilemmas of family relationships, confusion and identity. Justine and Perry are twins. Justine is bright, capable, caring and logical. Perry is also bright, capable, caring and logical but with one major difference.
“Perry has a brain condition that can cause him to feel anxious or upset in different places and circumstances. He has trouble with people – mixing with them and communicating with them – and it sometimes results in inappropriate behaviours. I appreciate your understanding and patience.”
This is almost Justine’s mantra. When she and Perry were around four, their mother ‘took off’ and their father subsequently raised the twins with loving support and insightful belief. Sadly, shortly before their 18th birthdays, Dan (Dad) dies due to an unpleasant and lingering cancer condition. Since the time their mother left, Justine and Dan had cared for Perry – Justine, as his twin, with enormous empathy even at the age of four. However, unbeknownst to either Dan or Perry, Justine has begun some contact with her mother and following their father’s demise, she decides it is time for Perry to also be introduced to his mother (who now wants to be part of their lives). This is especially important as the pair has made a decision, based on their father’s thinking that Perry will move into sheltered independent (semi-independent) care and Justine can pursue her own life. Before this event, Justine makes the decision for the two siblings to go to America and not only pursue Perry’s quirky interests (seismology, mythical beasts) but also to meet their mother.
This is a road trip with a difference. There are numerous complications, scares and surprises along the way but eventually a resolution that is neither cloying nor predictable.
My opinion is that this is a marvellous novel for exploring what constitutes the ‘caring, competent, logical’ persona, family relationships, mother/father and siblings and ‘letting go’ of preconceived ideas, values and beliefs.
I would highly recommend this novel for students, both boys and girls, from around 14 up. There is nothing untoward that would justify a ‘senior’ label but does require some maturity of thought to grasp the concepts.
Find Teacher Notes here.