A Small Madness, by Dianne Touchell

Rose didn’t tell anyone about it. She wondered if it showed. She looked at herself in the mirror and turned this way and then that way. She stood as close to the mirror as she could, leaning over the bathroom basin, looking into her own eyes until they disappeared behind the fog of her breath. Looking for something. Some evidence that she was different.

Rose and Michael are good kids. They work hard at school, are popular, and do what their parents tell them. But they are in love, and not as careful as they should be, and soon Rose is pregnant. The problem is, she is having trouble admitting it, even to herself. Michael struggles with the reality, too, and events spiral beyond his control. What happens is utterly devastating.

A Small Madness confronts the issues surrounding teen pregnancy in a way that will shock readers to the core. This is not a happy ever after story by any stretch of the imagination, but is absorbing and feels very real, exploring the possibilities of what can happen when teens feel shut off from support. Touchell does not try to cover all eventualities or to demonstrate how such a situation can be ‘fixed’, but the book will hopefully leave readers pondering how things can be, and the importance of finding ways through terrible situations.

An important, haunting, breathtaking book.


A Small Madness

A Small Madness, by Dianne Touchell
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760110789

Available from good bookstores and online.

Creepy & Maud, by Dianne Touchell

I am in love with the girl next door. Our windows are almost opposite each other’s, over the side fence.
I call her Maud. That’s not her real name but that’s what I call her. She’s sort of shortish and curvy. Titian hair. No freckles. A dark, smudgy birthmark on the back of her left calf. A nose piercing her dad knows about and a bellybutton piercing I assume he doesn’t. All right, so I have spent a bit of time looking in there.
Am I sounding creepy? Love is sort of creepy.

Creepy (not his real name but he doesn’t mind that people call him that) is in love with girl next door. He spends all his spare time watching her because his bedroom window looks straight into hers, over the fence. Kind of convenient and also kind of creepy. But Maud (also not her real name – just the pet name Creepy has given her) knows that Creepy is looking and she doesn’t mind. When she doesn’t want him to see she closes her curtains.

Creepy has a view of Maud’s life with a level of intimacy that at times means he knows more than her parents do. For example, he seems to be the only one who knows about the alcohol hidden behind her dolls house, and he has a pretty good view of her hair pulling obsession as it spirals out of control. From just watching he gradually starts to communicate with Maud through notes, though the pair never speak – not even at school, where Maud doesn’t acknowledge him. Their friendship is unorthodox, even at times disturbing, yet it becomes important to both of them as they each struggle with a dysfunctional family, and personal turmoil.

Creepy and Maud is a moving, funny, clever young adult novel which will have readers laughing out loud in places and moved near to tears in others. Creepy is a smart articulate first person narrator, belying his lack of success at school, where he tries to fly under the radar – until his obsession with Maud makes this difficult. Maud, too, has a turn at narrating, giving the reader insight into her and her life which is not available to Creepy. Both are likeable characters though their struggles are at times quite painful, and some of Creepy’s behaviour is disturbing.

Not a difficult read, but there’s a lot to digest, even after it’s finsihed. Creepy and Maud is an outstanding debut novel.

Creepy and Maud

Creepy and Maud, by Dianne Touchell
Fremantle Press, 2012
ISBN 9781921888953

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.