This book was hard to tear myself away from. Its sincere tone and frightening story struck me so deeply that I had to put it down midway and go speak to my daughter about cyberbullying. Natalie’s plight was hair-raising, and the fact that no one took her seriously until it was too late disturbed me greatly. There’s something heartrending about reading a book in which the main character is being bullied unceasingly with nowhere to turn. I was so angry at Natalie’s parents for forcing her to fend for herself at such a tender age. This left Natalie in the wind, fighting for her pride and reputation, alone.
When Natalie unearths a strange diary in the basement of her home, she decides that she’ll uncover its secrets as her independent project for English class. But before she even opens the diary, she meets the lonely and very perceptive Kathleen Lynch. In revealing even the smallest part of her soul to Kathleen, Natalie and her diary become a subject of intense interest to the archivist. Kathleen is longing for the daughter that left her many years ago, and when she discovers the truth behind Natalie’s reticence and fear, she resolves to save the child at all costs. There’s an instant bond between the two, but Natalie is skittish and won’t reveal everything to the woman who longs to be the hero to one lost girl.
Though Natalie is initially confused by the bullying, things get way out of hand in a very short time. There’s nowhere to hide, and Natalie is powerless against the two girls who have targeted her. Again and again she tells her story, but the people who should save the day are hearing but not listening. This was maddening to me. The suffering of a young girl with nowhere to turn immediately made me think of all the children out there being bullied, secretly carrying this great weight of shame and abuse. The major crux of this story lies in the themes of trust. It’s because Natalie can’t fully trust Kathleen that things go horribly wrong for her. There is a great amount of gravity and tension in this story, and most of it centers around a victim’s sense of shame and humiliation.
The final element to this story is the inclusion of the secret diary, written by an Irish maid in the 1900s. This is the life story of Bridget O’Connell, and the tragic and scandalous events that changed her life. Moore entwines this story with precision, making it not only a source of mystery and suspense in the narrative, but also the figurative glue that bonds Kathleen and Natalie together. Like the main narrative, it’s also a cautionary tale, and left me greedily gulping the pages to find out what eventually happened to Bridget. It’s a story within a story, and gifts the reader with a lot to think about and discuss.
This is a book that every parent needs to read. Not only is the narrative thoroughly addictive, the messages within are hugely important and relevant. Once I picked this book up, there was no stopping me until I had turned the final page and discovered the fate of the characters who were not only lifelike, but tenderly endearing. An important book that will hold you in its spell until you turn the final page. Highly recommended.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.