'BUT REBECCA, YOU REALLY WANTED TO READ THIS BOOK' and yes, I did. I'm just not sure about it at the moment, hopefully writing this review will help.
Synopsis: Frankie is just one of those people who worry a lot, perhaps obsessively. Everyone around him carries on untroubled by worry, apart from his Ma who listens and answers his questions every night at 10pm before going to sleep to help him. But soon, a new girl arrives at school who is not afraid to hold back with a wild and interesting past. Suddenly, Frankie's careful, controlled world is unravelling and leaves one ultimate question of all. Will he ask it though?
Review: First things first, I love the cover. I mean, LOOK AT THAT DRAWING. It is so beautiful and colourful and really one of the reasons I picked up this book. It made me drawn to it, want to find out what that meant. I mean, I wouldn't associate 'The 10pm Question' with a bird, so it was an interesting thing to put on the front.
Now, to the novel. This is a very fun and quirky book to read but has a lot of deeper subtext underlying problems with the characters. Frankie is twelve years-old, the 'baby' of the family. Frankie was a good protagonist and had a very interesting voice. At first he seems like a normal boy of that age, but as the novel progresses, you start to realise certain things about him, for example, his extend of worrying constantly over certain things. I mean, everyone worries right? I know I do, but soon you realise that this is serious and that his visits to his Ma every night have a purpose. The '10pm Question' is a very important thing for dear Frankie.
Frankie has, also, a very VERY weird family. First, there is his Ma, who does something (trying not to, you know, reveal everything here if you decide to read this) that you don't really realise until they address it in the novel. Then, his father, 'Uncle George' as they call him. I thought he had no father because he was never mentioned but then kindly Sydney asked 'Why do you call your father Uncle George?' (THANK YOU GAL). Continuing, there are the Aunties, a trio of fat, elderly ladies who looked after Frankie a lot as a child and are actually his great aunts. Lastly, there are his older siblings, Gordana (she is female...) and Louis who both play the typical older sibling role of trying to completely ignore him. I liked Gordana, she seemed to care for Frankie deeply and of how he felt but put on the traditional teenage stance of not and branding him a freak.
And his friends weren't much better in the weird stakes. His best friend really is Gigs, who is a cricket obsessed boy who makes the duo quite comedic and outrageous. It was him that made me laugh, especially in his expressions and their exchanges in the made-up language of Chilun. Kate de Goldi kindly told us the translation in brackets next to the name which really added to the effect that it was as if Frankie was talking to you, telling you the story. It was like his own personal translation to you as a friend.
So, the bottom line. Frankie has a weird life which should make this a very quirky original novel. WRONG. Here comes skipping in Sydney (Yes, she was born there...) who although to me normal, although a tad aggressive, has a very rocky and turbulent background and family which develops throughout and we find out more about it, as does Frankie. I liked Sydney, she again was quite quirky, but was really useful in the book for filling in the gaps in Frankie's life by constantly asking questions as one of her personality traits. It helped.
The writing was good, with a mixture of the simple language of everyday people and descriptions. There was, for me, little 'laugh out loud' moments, but there was a couple of times where you have to crack a smile, mostly from the lovely Gigs and occasionally Frankie. These things are mostly for small objects or just a certain way the sentence was phrased so might not be unanimous funny wise.
My favourite part and favourite character? The Fat Controller and the in-depth description of Frankie's reaction to her catching a rat. Oh yes. This is Frankie's cat, if you wonder. Here was the part where I did actually laugh so much:
"The day began in the worst possible way. Twice. First, it begun at 3.49am, when the Fat Controller jumped through Frankie's bedroom window with a rat and proceeded to do a presentation juggle on the floor in front of his bed ... and accompanied by The Fat Controller's very peculiar deep-throated miaow of triumph ... But removing The Fat Controller wasn't easy since she became ferocious and most uncooperative if her hunting celebrations were interrupted."
I think I was in tears by the end of the chapter. Sad, I know, but I just found this part hilarious. The Fat Controller for me, MADE the book complete. Without her, I would not have enjoyed this book.
Overall, this book holds some great unique characters and interesting situations. It is nice to have it set in Northern New Zealand instead of the conventional setting of America or England. There are many quirky features of the book but there is something vital missing that makes you not quite love it as much as you may want to. I would recommend this book because of it's originality and comedic moments but beware, you may not love it.
Verdict: Could be an amazing novel, but not quite there. Good try though.
I give it a 4 out of 5
Author's Website: http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/degoldikate.html
Publisher: Templar Publishing