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Book review: A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell

Martina Taliano

Rose didn’t tell anyone about it. She wondered if it showed. She looked at herself in the mirror and turned this way and then that way. She stood as close to the mirror as she could, leaning over the bathroom basin, looking into her own eyes until they disappeared behind the fog of her breath. Looking for something. Some evidence that she was different now. Something had shifted inside her, a gear being ratcheted over a clunky cog, gaining torque, starting her up. But it didn’t show. How could all of these feelings not show? She was a woman now but it didn’t show and she couldn’t tell anyone.

Rose and Michael are in love in the way that only teenagers fall in love. Rose gets butterflies when she sees Michael in the hallways between classes and he thinks she is the most beautiful girl he will ever know. When they decide to start having sex it is such a natural transition in their relationship, an expression of their love for each other, that it’s no wonder that they get caught up and forget to use protection that first time. And the second time. But you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex, right? Um, wrong.

A Small Madness | FRONT COVER (10 September 2014)

After counting up the 61 days (in her school diary none the less) since her last period Rose convinces her best friend Liz to purchase a pregnancy test, which shows up two bright solid pink lines. Definitely pregnant. After doing some research Rose decides that the best way to deal with this problem is to just ignore it.

“‘I’ve worked it out. We won’t tell anyone. No one could help us anyway. I can hide it. It’s not real….These things go away all the time.'”

Rose tells Michael and Liz that she isn’t pregnant, that the ‘virus’ has left her body. Because that is what she works out it is; an unwanted thing that was making her sick.

Dianne Touchell is a very talented writer and this book had me so angry, disturbed, frustrated and sad for days after reading it. It only took a few hours to read but each character will stay with you much longer than that.

A Small Madness is like an accident you can see unfolding before your eyes but you cant do anything to stop it. Rose, Michael and Liz are so emotionally ill-equipped to deal with the problem of teen pregnancy that they rationalize each bad choices to suit their needs. Even though I found nearly every person in this book maddening, each one aroused my sympathy at some point of their story. I think that is the sign of a great writer – that you have an emotional response to the characters or storyline that will hang on after the back page is closed.

This is a read that would be fantastic to share with a teenager, a book club or just about anyone. Two of my friends have also read A Small Madness and we have discussed it at length! With topics such as teen pregnancy, after school/life plans, family expectations, school politics, mental health and friendships Dianne Touchell has given us a confronting yet real and engaging story. Thanks Dianne!

You can pick up a copy from your nearest book store or order a copy online from Allen & Unwin.

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