When Clementine finds Stella's diaries, she believes she finally has a way to hold on to her special memories of her aunt. Instead, she discovers that she didn't really know Stella at all. Hurt and disillusioned, Clem pushes away her parents and friends, isolating herself and making a series of bad choices that take her further away from those who care for her.
Divine Clementine is the debut novel of Australian author Hayley S. Kirk and it is a very moving account of the impact of mental illness on a family. Both Stella's struggle with bipolar and Clementine's obvious depression in the wake of her aunt's death have an impact on the family as a whole and a wider circle of relationships.
Written in the first person, the novel is a very personal account of Clementine's conflicting emotions as she struggles with the grief and shock of her aunt's passing as well as her hurt and confusion on finding that Stella's condition was known by most of the family other than herself.
The novel is a moving portrayal of grief, friendship, family loyalty and the complex issues involved in dealing with mental illness. Clementine is a mixture of teenage self-centredness and lost little girl as she deals with her confusion and overwhelming grief.
There are elements of romance to the story and some encounters with sexual overtones, although this is always implied rather than described. Stella's death is abrupt and confronting, but once again much of the scene is conveyed through implication and snapshot images rather than detailed descriptions.
Divine Clementine is a confronting and moving novel ideal for readers in their mid-to late teens, but I think that parents of teens dealing with issues of grief and depression would also gain some insight by reading Clementine's story.
I confess that I shed a few tears as I read - for Clementine, for her mother and for her friends who so desperately wanted to help but didn't know how to reach her. Clementine's responses, both positive and negative, rang true for her age. I have definitely added Hayley Kirk to my list of authors to watch and will be looking forward to future books with anticipation.
Title: Divine Clementine
Author: Hayley S. Kirk
Publisher: Random House, $18.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1 May 2012
For ages: 14+ years
Type: Young Adult Fiction