The Golden Child (Wendy James, HarperCollins)
Beth’s blogging alter-ego Lizzy may seem to have the perfect life, but Beth’s reality is far messier. Following the family’s relocation to Newcastle from the US, conflict seems to be arising on multiple fronts: with her husband, her mother-in-law and her mother. But it’s her two teenage daughters Charlie and Lucy—once the centre of her world and now increasingly distant—who spark a series of disturbing incidents, as they become involved in a case of cyber-bullying at school. ‘Domestic noir’ is an apt description of Wendy James’ latest novel, which plays out in a suburban arena where conflict is anchored in domestic detail and enhanced by the rise of social media. James addresses some big issues around cyber-bullying and parenting, and their seriousness and topicality lends a chilling sense of foreboding to the unfolding drama, while her depiction of Charlie and Lucy’s different behaviours explores conflicting opinions of what makes children ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This is an engaging and intimate read that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult, with nods to Lionel Shriver and Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. It’s highly recommended for anyone who wants to learn more about the insidious side of social media and cyber-bullying.
Cecilia Hedley is a freelance copywriter and bookseller at Benns Books