The smell of the incense fills my lungs; the spicy floral aroma drifts from hymn books and throughout the pews. I close my eyes because they are stinging. I don’t want them to sting anymore. I close my eyes because I am afraid if I open them, they will cry me a river and stain this holy place forever. My heart is stained. My ears are open. Sounds flood in – sounds of pages turning, of silver clasps clicking on special-occasion purses, of sniffles and sobs, of sadness …
Sixteen-year-old Clementine (Clem) witnesses the death of her adored aunt, Stella. Her aunt was only 26 years old and as much as best friend as her mother’s sister. Clem is sure that her life will never be the same and she can’t understand members of her family and her friends when they suggest that life goes on. Clearly, she thinks, they haven’t lost as much as she has. Clem finds her aunt’s diaries and discovers that there was much more to Stella than she knew. Clem is hurt and very angry that she was so deceived by Stella and by all her family. She sets on a path of self-destruction, convinced that everything she knew, everyone she trusted is based on lies. Nothing seems to matter. It will take more than time for her to realise she will survive.
Teen age can be tough. So many hormones, so many body changes, so many new challenges. Clem was doing well, until her aunt dies. Not only is she wracked by grief, she discovers that the certainty she felt about life in general was based on less than full truth. Now she is flailing about like other teenagers, feeling misunderstood and questioning her own worth, and the value of those previously-trusted others of her close circles. Divine Clementine delves deeply into troubled times, and shows that even with the best of supports, the best love and care, some things have to come from within. There are themes of loss, mental illness, love and friendship, all explored within the journey of a single hurting teen. Clem doesn’t always behave well. Her character is flawed and often hurtful, but she has a solid foundation and from this, she begins to recover. A thoughtful coming-of-age story for mid-teens.
Divine Clementine, Haley S Kirk Random House 2012 ISBN: 9781864718997
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author