The Amethyst Child by Sarah Singleton
|The Amethyst Child by Sarah Singleton|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A tense and menacing story about a girl drawn into a cult, told from before and after the inevitable crisis. Wonderfully sensuous and evocative writing and psychologically sophisticated, it will appeal especially to teenagers having trouble fitting in.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: May 2008|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books|
Amber is bored. It's that dislocated boredom of adolescence - Amber has that sense that life should be just beginning, but instead it seems to be passing her by. Everyone has a place; everyone, that is, except Amber. And so she sits by the river, and she waits for life to catch her up. And, in the form of Dowdie, pretty soon it does. Dowdie is everything Amber isn't. She's loud, bright, determined, vivacious, vital. Amber feels black-and-white besides Dowdie's vivid presence, but she also feels the connection she's been seeking. Dowdie lives in a commune and she has radical ideas about education, family structure, politics and the future. It's exactly the escape Amber's been looking for and she is soon addicted to Dowdie's company.
So when her new friend announces that she is special, an Amethyst Child, destined to usher in a new age of humankind and that Amber is too, Amber finds it relatively easy to dismiss her natural skepticism. Johnny, the strange, brittle, artistic boy in her life, sounds warning bells, but Amber doesn't heed them until it's all too late.
Sarah Singleton has caught the vulnerable teenager perfectly in the picture she draws of Amber. Amber is articulate, bright and creative, wants to be a writer. She has deeply held values and she feels overwhelmed, as so many sensitive adolescents do, by world problems. She can't understand how other people even manage to function with such black horrors as war and global warming hanging over them. She feels dislocated from her family, and even slightly embarrassed of her solid, dependable, conventional parents. She also feels guilty for feeling embarrassed. Her self confidence is brittle, and potential humiliation lurks around every corner. The slightest setback feels like utter disaster to Amber. It's painfully obvious to the reader that a cult, with its culture and beliefs outside the mainstream, which Amber finds so difficult and threatening, would find it easy to attract her.
And we're in no doubt that it all ends in tears. The story is told in flashbacks, interspersed with Amber's post-crisis interviews at the police station. Rather than diffuse the tension, this device actually adds to it. How do things go wrong? How far do they go? What will happen? Who gets hurt? Suspense hangs, dark, dank and ominous, over every word.
The writing is dense, highly sensuous, almost poetic. It drives the narrative in a very powerful way and allows the reader to making shifting judgements. There is always a need to re-evaluate not only earlier events in the book, but also how you feel about them. Amber best expresses it herself:
Faith isn't a constant. It's not a light that switches on and off.It's more like fire that blazes when there's fuel and oxygen, but falters when the damp comes in or the fuel is consumed. It can smoulder quietly and it can be completely extinguished. It can also be rekindled by a stray spark, or fanned to dramatic heights.
Absolutely stonking stuff.
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