Saturday, November 2, 2013

After Iris - Natasha Farrant

Title: After Iris
Author: Natasha Farrant
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin), 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 260 pages
Genre: Children's Realistic Fiction
Started: October 31, 2013
Finished: October 31, 2013

From the inside cover:

Blue Gadsby's twin sister, Iris, died three years ago, and since then her family hasn't been the same. Her melodramatic older sister, Flora, changes her hair colour daily; her younger siblings, Jasmine and Twig, are completely obsessed with their pet rats; and both of her parents spend weeks away from home-and each other.

Enter Zoran the au pair and Joss the troublemaking boy next door, and life for the Gadsby family takes a turn for the even more chaotic. Blue poignantly captures her family's trials and tribulations in a sequence of film transcripts and diary entries that will make you cry, laugh, and give thanks (sort of) for the gift of families.

I love a good book that shows what happens to families in the aftermath of grief, mostly because not enough people believe in or seek out therapy after trauma, and in a way books can be a type of therapy for some where professional therapy is unavailable or not affordable.

Twelve-year-old Blue and her family live in the shadow of her dead twin sister, Iris, who died on Christmas Eve three years prior after being hit by a car. Her parents have purposely taken intensive jobs that require travel away from the children, leaving them in the care of various babysitters and nannies. All the children are obviously still angry (Flora) and grief-stricken (Blue) with no coping skills (Jasmine and Twig), and all pine for their absent parents. A new school year starts and their parents hire Zoran, their father's Bosnian graduate student to care for them, and between himself and Joss, the new boy in the neighbourhood, they help the family tackle their grief head-on. They call the parents out on their near-abandonment, help Blue stick up for herself against bullies at school, help Flora through her teenage angst, and make them realize its okay to talk about Iris, that they need to talk about Iris.

I like how the book was done with film scripts and diary entries, it's a unique format I haven't personally seen before. It fits well with Blue's personality and also compels her family to address things they otherwise wouldn't have if they hadn't been filmed. I also like how the children have a male caregiver, and Zoran is not only shown as capable (aside from shoddy cooking skills in the beginning), but that he really does love the children and wants everyone to heal.

A well-written book about a family's sad yet humorous journey in the aftermath of grief.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like how everyone has a portrait here, and how Iris is faintly penciled in beside Blue.

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