A review by Annabelle Lee
Storm Wake is a young adult fantasy fiction novel that explores the power of the stories we tell, the truths we create and the secrets we hide. Written by award winning British/Australian author Lucy Christopher, the book centres around a girl called Moss who has lived, stranded, for as long as she can remember on a beautiful island with her Pa.
The entire earth has been flooded and they are the last of humankind, tasked to heal the world and draw back the floods through powerful flower magic. As Moss and Cal (a fish-boy who washed in from the sea) grow up together, it becomes apparent that all is not as Pa has made it out to be.
Storm Wake is a gripping story, which walks the fine line where the reader is unsure how much of the fantasy is real and how much is delusion. In the beginning we see the entrancing and magical island through the eyes of Moss as a young child. As she grows it becomes both a sanctuary and trap, as does her Pa.
The reader never sees through the eyes of Pa, though he is perhaps the most important character in the story. Tension builds as he subtly morphs over time from a warm and loving father figure to something unstable. Christopher does not name her themes of mental illness and drug addiction, but their undertones play beautifully into the narrative, giving it a darkness and complexity.
The author’s use of language throughout the novel is very clever. Moss and Cal speak in shorthand English, reminiscent of the entrapped boy in the novel (and movie) Room by Emma Donoghue. Characters, including Pa, who have had experience in the world outside of the island speak normally. This creates the understanding that Moss and Cal are products of their lifelong isolation on the island, so they are vulnerable to misinformation. Their gullibility is acceptable in the context of having no other resources to find the truth. And yet, they seek it out anyway.
Given the questionable state of Pa’s mental health, and the fact that everything they know has been taught by him, the reader is drawn in with them to figure out what is and isn’t real.
Storm Wake is a gripping novel, written with skill and subtlety. It is easy and enjoyable to read, with enough intrigue and tension to keep the pages turning. On the surface it is an interesting story about a girl on an island, but look a little deeper and you’ll find a nuanced look into the effects of self medicating and mental health.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Imprint: Chicken House Books (distributed by Scholastic)
Category: Young Adult, social issues
Reviewer Annabelle Lee
Annabelle Lee is a chronic book nerd who loves nothing more than a good story and some people to talk to about the story. Congratulations, you are now those people. Occasionally she puts down a book long enough to take care of her kids and even to write and illustrate some books of her own. You can find her horribly punny series of picture books for grown ups on Facebook and Instagram, or all good online bookstores.
DMZ discovered Annabelle Lee at Impact Comics’s festival where Annabelle showed us her hilarious adult picture books.