Ballad for a Mad Girl (Vikki Wakefield, Text)
Grace is the prankster in her group of friends, the odd one of the odd ones out. She’s always been known for taking a joke further, and for being the first to say yes to a dare. But one night, when completing a dare against the local rival school, Grace is possessed by the spirit of a dead girl. Grace becomes obsessed with the ghost, and is drawn deeper into the mystery of Hannah Holt’s death, and the death of her own mother. Ballad for a Mad Girl is a departure of sorts for Vikki Wakefield, who is better known for writing gritty urban reality than supernatural thrillers. And yet it isn’t an awkward fit. Wakefield’s usual trademarks—her ventures into the darker parts of the adolescent psyche, her preoccupations with absent parents—are very much still present in this book. Grace is exciting and complicated in the way of all good unreliable narrators. There are so many reasons to trust her, but an equal number to doubt her—in Grace, Wakefield highlights the distrust and suspicion with which many sufferers of mental illness are met. Fans of intelligent, unflinching, spine-crawling thrillers along the lines of Kirsty Eagar’s Night Beach will love this book.
Bec Kavanagh is a writer, reviewer and schools coordinator for the Stella Prize