CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 35. . . May 19, 2017
Victoria Markham, 15, is the only child of a single parent, Julia. Her mom had a boyfriend once, James, an artist, who taught Victoria about painting. He and her mom fought, and he left. Now her mom, previously a follower of the royal family, is obsessed with the royal family and disapproves of Vic’s having anything to do with art. Though Vic is an excellent student and holds down a job at the local corner store, she has chosen to dress as a Goth and has begun going out at night to tag underpasses and other public property. She has developed her style into full paintings and loses herself in the adrenalin rush of the risk and the joy of creating.
Caught by Officer Mitchell in the act of finishing a large painting under an overpass, Vic is taken into the police station and her mother is called. When her mother arrives, Vic is offered the chance to join a group of other taggers on Saturday mornings to perform community service. Though the group is to paint a mural on the plywood barrier around a new construction site, they also spend part of each session painting over unauthorized art work, tags and graffiti. This task becomes especially painful for Vic when one of the works that they must cover is her own latest work.
Melanie Mosher has written a successful first novel. She has combined character, conflict, foreshadowing, and humour. The story is told as a first person narrative from the point of view of 15 year old Victoria. Her conflict with her mother and the attitudes of fellow students toward her choice of Goth makeup contribute to her feelings of alienation. In the course of the story, the reader gradually comes to understand more about Vic’s circumstances and character. Vic is a good student, a responsible employee, and is polite to older customers at her work. One particular older woman customer is later revealed to be Vic’s grandmother. Having been told that her father died before she could remember, and losing her surrogate parent, her mother's boyfriend, James, when arguments with her mother push him to leaving them, Vic is isolated. Though she seems to have always lived in the same house, she has only one friend at school, Justine. Though Vic and Justine eat lunch together almost every day, Vic views Justine as more of an acquaintance than a friend. Vic’s “sentence” to community service offers her a chance to interact with a group of teens who would seem to have more in common with her. Over the course of weeks of Saturdays spent together, Vic discovers that the other taggers are more complex than the simple stereotypes she originally identified them with – the princess, the two punks, and the rich jock. Having discovered that there can be more to people than meets the eye, Vic re evaluates her relationship with Justine and begins to listen to Justine as Justine has listened to her. These experiences cause Vic to also re-evaluate her choice of Goth makeup. Has she chosen the Goth style as a hiding place, or is it truly an expression of who she is? These details help round out Vic’s character as our heroine.
Although Mosher fills in details about the other taggers to inform Vic’s attitudes and experiences about them, these characters remain flat, and there is little in their behaviour to distinguish Russell and Peter (the punks) from Mark and Jeremy, who bully Vic at school. The author handles the romance between Vic and Zach well. The quickening of Vic’s pulse, her loss of concentration, and her inability not to follow Zach’s bad influence give a strong taste of a teenage girl’s first crush.
On the whole, Mosher has created an interesting story and an admirable character. The storyline of Goth Girl has a pleasing arc as the narrator/main character develops inner strength to face the challenges presented to her.
Rebecca King, a Library Support Specialist, retired after 25 years of service with the Halifax Regional School Board in Halifax, NS.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.