We previously read and reviewed Vikki Wakefield’s first novel Inbetween Days, let’s see how her third fares under the judgement of Gobblefunked’s Sophie Suelzle.
17-year-old Grace Foley is wild – a tomboy, a practical joker and a risk taker. Her and her group of friends have been dared by the snobby private school kids to ‘run the pipe’ (the water pipe running over the local gorge) and Grace has never backed down from a challenge. But what should have been an easy victory takes an unexpected turn when Grace sees something hidden, ensnaring her in a chilling 20-year-old mystery that threatens to destroy her life and her sanity.
Grace awakens with no memory of the previous night, however she soon realises something is horribly wrong. Grace doesn’t feel like herself – or more accurately, she feels like someone else. Haunted by a terrifying presence, Grace is drawn into a past life. Her tastes change, she eats food differently, she tries to turn on light switches that aren’t there and in one of the most subtly disturbing scenes of the book, a candid photo taken on a friend’s phone reveals her with a mouth full of teeth that aren’t her own.
Local teenager Hannah Holt went missing in 1993. Presumed dead, her body was never found and the case remained unsolved. Whoever is haunting Grace desperately wants to find out what happened the night Hannah disappeared. Driven by a ghost taking over her body, Grace must solve the mystery before she loses herself entirely. But her search uncovers secrets not only within the sleepy town of Swanston but among her closest friends.
The closer Grace comes to unravelling the events behind Hannah’s disappearance the more she loses herself. Grace’s increasingly erratic, unsettling behaviour isolates her from those she trusts and threatens to rip apart the relationship between her, her father and brother, already strained after her mother’s death.
Ballad of a Mad Girl blurs the lines between what is real and what isn’t brilliantly, keeping the reader constantly guessing.
As Grace descends further into ‘madness’ she becomes an increasingly unreliable narrator. Time doesn’t flow chronologically and the events within the novel pass in a dreamy, unnerving haze. Ballad of a Mad Girl blurs the lines between what is real and what isn’t brilliantly, keeping the reader constantly guessing. Who is the ghost haunting Grace? What happened to Hannah? And most importantly, is Grace solving a mystery or is she losing her mind? Teenage readers may feel a sense of solidarity with Grace, and relate to many of her (less supernatural) experiences – Grace’s friendship group has been the one solid in her life and she cannot face the thought of it changing. Her friends are growing up, and perhaps out growing each other. Her family dynamic is shifting. I suppose the one good thing about being haunted by a terrifying ghost is that Grace’s possession makes her examine her own life closer. Fantastic creepy fun from one of Australia’s best YA writers.