The Tiger Project, by Susanna Van Essen

When Bella sees the baby Thylacine floating in a jar of preserving fluid, something clutches at her. She is moved more than she can explain. For weeks, the thylacine haunts her dreams, becoming a symbol of the frustrations of her own life.

Bella is in a wheelchair, disabled since birth. She wonders about her absentee father – who left when she was born – and whether she has inherited his genes. She is also involved in the struggles of her friends – Sylvia who has fallen in love with another girl, Claire, the class brain, and Adrian, the class clown. She also forges an unlikely friendship with a neighbour, elderly Olivia Peeves.

All of the strands of this story cause Bella to question how much genes influence an individual’s make up. As she works with her three friends on a project studying the thylacine, she gains a new perspective on life and love.

The Tiger Project is a humorous and insightful young adult novel, which explores complex issues in a simple way. Great reading.

The Tiger Project, by Susanna Van Essen
Pan MacMillan, 2003