Book Club: The Golden Child

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Author: Wendy James
ISBN: 978-1-4607-5237-1
RRP: $32.99

Wendy James is an Australian author I was not familiar with before the release of The Golden Child but now that I have read her latest release I think she needs to remain on my radar.


Reading this book scared me; it concerns me and has left me a little paranoid. It is certainly a book that will have an impact, I think it affected me so much because I have a 13 year old daughter who has just embarked on her first week of high school. I am also left feeling glad that my high school days were well before the years of mobile phones and social media.

I am only just beginning to navigate the world of social media and online presence as a parent, the changing dynamic of parenting a teen and high school student and I’m not afraid to admit that I find it daunting and scary, this is uncharted territory for me so this is probably not the book I needed to read in the first week of high school. At the same time this is exactly the book I needed to read.

James has tackled the very scary issues of changing dynamics in the parent-child relationship that comes with adolescence, social media, cyber bullying and the hierarchy that often emerges in the schoolyard.

Beth and her family are living in America, they are there with her husbands work and have been for over a decade. Beth and Dan are both Australians who have long talked about the day they will get to return home though their children have only known a life in America. Finally the day comes they can return home, to Dan’s childhood home of Newcastle, where they can be close to their families and build a support network.

The girls aren’t thrilled about the move, they have only known a home in America, but the timing turns out to be quite fortuitous because there is some trouble at school and a fresh start may be just what’s needed.

The Mahoney family are an ordinary family, they are a stable everyday family with parents who have done everything they can to ensure the girls have the opportunity to grow and be nurtured. Beth has been a stay at home mum, mainly because she didn’t have a green card to work in America, so could dedicate all her time to raising the girls. They have a wide range of extra curricular activities, they are bright and well adjusted children.

Lucy is the older of the two and she’s never been too hung up on being in the popular crowd, she’s happy with a few close friends. Charlotte on the other hand has always been part of the in crowd and it doesn’t take her long to reach to the top of the pile. She is genuinely well liked and gets along with her peers as well as adults. She is a confident girl with great leadership skills, traits which can easily be misused.

Beth has been writing a blog, still quite small and not enough to attract advertising dollars but it keeps her hand in while she’s not working. Her blog is anonymous and her alter ego always puts a positive spin on things. The blog is observations of her life but seen through a positive filter and many of her blog posts, and their comments, are included in the book.

We also read blog posts from The Golden Child, who is a little concerning; some of the entries on social media site ASKfm and a website that is made and shared with students at the prestigious girls school attended by Lucy and Charlotte.

The story is told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Beth and Charlotte but also Sophie, a girl in Charlotte’s class, and her mother Andi. We are shown both sides of this tragic story and taken deep inside the tragedy of bullying and the effect it can have on complete families.

ASKfm is an actual app that has been linked to cyber bullying and the ability to post anonymously means that keyboard warriors of all ages can be vile with little fear of repercussion; a recipe for disaster.

The Golden Child tackles the question that I’m sure plagues many parents, how well do you really know your children…

The writing is engaging, the storyline gripping even at its most disturbing and the characters completely relatable. James navigates the schoolyard deftly and raises tough questions about why some people find themselves on the receiving end but also makes you think about where the line is between thoughtlessness, nastiness and pathological behaviours.

The Golden Child is sure to open your eyes to the insidious nature of cyber bullying, the ease with which these behaviours can be hidden and the speed at which a situation can become unbearable.

A well written story that I would recommend to parents everywhere. It can be quite dark and there are some interesting surprises but this is definitely worth the read.

Wendy James can be found on Facebook, Twitter and her Website.

The Golden Child is published by Harper Collins and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to  Harper Collins 15 of our Beauty and Lace club members will be reading  The Golden Child so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

 

 

16 thoughts on “Book Club: The Golden Child

  1. Gosh what a great book, I started today at 50% read and just finished it tonight, couldn’t put it down. Such a topical and somewhat sad reflection on life today. A story that had so many elements to it – social media, bullying, working mothers, sibling rivalry, jealousy, suicide, loneliness, I could go on and on.

    Hard to reveal too much without spoilers but it involves two girls at school and bullying. I would like to say that this book should be read by every teenager and parent of a school age child and is an excellent example of today’s youth and how social media has such a big effect on life today. First time I have read anything by this author – I am most impressed

    Thank you so much for the opportunity to read this book, I keep on saying we have great writers here in Australia

  2. Thank you so much for the opportunity to read this well written book by Wendy James.

    The Golden Child is a real page-turner. Even though it was quite confronting at times, I found it quite difficult to put down. The story touches on a modern and unfortunately, too real topic relevant in today’s society – cyber bullying and teenage suicide.

    As the story is told through the eyes of the different characters (bully, victim and both their mothers), you are able to think about their different viewpoints and the devastating effects on each of their families. Cyber bullying can have real tragic consequences and is a topic that needs to be addressed.

    Wendy James is an excellent Australian story-teller and with three teenage children in my household, this book was very relevant to me. I thoroughly recommend it.

  3. Wow that was one intense read. This book really does get under your skin and had me riveted right to the end. As a mom of three kids just about to enter their teens it was very real to me! and scary! Really brought home the fact that teenage internet bullying happens to every day moms and dads and kids and none of us no matter how perfectly we think we are raising our teens are immune to their effects. Really captured the typical Aussie school minefield of moms groups perfectly!! SO many times as I was reading I wanted to cheer for sentences that captured so beautifully what I feel and think so often at school drop off, pick ups and playdates! This book really was a fantastic very real read and I highly recommend it!!

  4. This is a valuable story which speaks of our modern times, teenage peer pressures and the very real dangers of cyberbullying and teenage suicides. Considering the impact and story line it is difficult to say its an enjoyable read but it is indeed very intense and engaging. I really liked the character of Sophie and I could envisage her growing up strong, compassionate and certainly no longer the victim.
    Overall, I think that parents, students and teachers could benefit from reading this book as it certainly alerts us to the hidden dangers of not only cyber bullying but also school culture, peer pressure, sibling rivalry, the emphasis on being popular etc. The after school pick up can also be intimidating for parents and I love the way Wendy James brings this to notice..
    Thank you for the opportunity to read this worthy novel.

  5. Thank you Beauty and Lace for selecting me to read the Golden Child
    This book by Wendy James is a great read I personally could not put the book down
    The story is told through the different characters in the book
    Some readers might find this book confronting it is a real eye opener and makes you wonder as a parent how well we know our children and their friends
    Bullying, cyber bulling, teen pressure and teen suicide are all major problems we face in this day and age with our advanced technology
    Would highly recommended this book and will certainly be looking for more of Wendy James books to read

  6. Thank you Beauty and Lace for giving me the chance to review the book The Golden Child by Australian author Wendy James.

    I found I could not put it down, it had me hooked from the first page. I like that the story is told through different characters in the book. It is a subject very relevant today of teenagers and peer pressure.

    It is a very real topic and something many parents are going through today. Bullying and peer pressure has always been around but now with cyber bulling the pressure is worse.

    I enjoyed the book and sometimes found it confronting with subjects such as bullying,social media,suicide,working mums and sibling rivalry.

    I would recommend this book as I found it entertaining and educational.

  7. As I went through my usual routine of checking my social media accounts first thing in the morning, today I came across an all too familiar item in my news feed. A story posted through a relative in the UK, came to my attention. A 14 year old girl tragically took her own life after a secret battle against cyber-bullies. The teenager’s mother only found out about the torment her daughter was subjected to when messages were uncovered from the teenager girl’s phone. This article not only broke my heart but it was also timely, as I was about to write my review of Wendy James latest release, The Golden Child, a book that examines a case of cyber bullying. This hard-hitting, as well as highly topical novel, looks at the various sides of cyber bullying, from the perpetrator, to the victim and their respective families.

    Any author who is willing to attack the very real and relevant issue of bullying, especially in the virtual world has my respect. Wendy James, an author I am familiar with, after reading two of her novels in the past, has taken on a mighty feat with her latest novel. James manages to provide the reader with a well rounded story of cyber bullying, through combining perspectives of the bully, the victim and the loved ones affected by the incident. The Golden Child is a book that draws our attention to the issues that are at the very epicentre of our modern society. These include teen suicide, the struggle to just feel ‘accepted’ in society and the power of social media in all its forms. Intertwined with these themes is a suburban noir style narrative, which makes The Golden Child comparable to other novels in this genre. The Golden Child reminded me of novels such as Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. Both of these novels require the reader to weigh in on the moral quandaries at the heart of situation the characters in these novels face.

    The Golden Child is structured in an original way that held my interest from beginning to the end. In addition to the general narrative centred around the two main families, the point of view shifts between mothers Beth and Andi and their two tween daughters, Charlotte and Sophie. James contrasts these perspectives well, offering the reader a fair representation of experiences. Interspersed within the storyline are intriguing blog posts from Beth’s blog DizzyLizzy.com and her follower’s responses. Also included are passages from THEGOLDENCHILD.COM, a website with a sinister ulterior motive that readers will assume links to Charlotte, the accused bully of the story. Excerpts from an app titled ASKfm, where the cyber bullying begins and a website titled http://www.Slowphie.com , which attacks one of the main characters Sophie, heightens the story further. When I reached the conclusion of The Golden Child, I felt in shock, not only by the events in the novel, but the character twist that I was quite oblivious too, which gave the narrative another important layer. Wendy James has certainly produced a clever and thought provoking narrative.

    In summary, The Golden Child, by Wendy James, had me pondering on its issues long after reading, making it a highly affective novel. It had me considering what challenges lay ahead of me as a parent, as my children move into the tween and teen category in a few years time. Along with the mothers in this story Andi and Beth, I too may be forced to confront issues of cyber bullying, peer pressure and the like, which is a scary thought. A tough one, yet a highly important read.

    *I wish to thank Beauty & Lace for providing me with a copy of this book for review purposes.

  8. Thank you Beauty & Lace and Harper Collins for the opportunity to read and review ‘The Golden Child’ by Wendy James.
    I’ve not heard of Wendy James before, so obviously have never read any of her work. But when Beauty & Lace sent out the email invitations for this book, I read the synopsis and was intrigued immediately.
    I was instantly drawn into this story and into the lives of Beth, Dan, Lucy, and Charlotte. They’re just a normal family, with their insecurities, family problems, work-addiction, hopes & dreams. The story is told from everyone’s different perspectives, which I love, as I get to know the characters even better.
    The tale begins with the Mahony family, living in America and about to make the move back to their homeland Australia….moving to the NSW Coastal City of Newcastle. I love when I read a story about a place I know….I just feel such a more intense bond with everyone and everything. Moving to Newcastle means being closer to Dan and Beth’s Mums, who Beth holds love-hate relationships with….tensions are palpable between Dan’s Mum, Margie and Beth…..Margie has always been overly fussy and picks apart everything she possibly can with Beth and the way Beth runs a household.
    Beth is at the stage in life where she has two children, a stay-at-home Mum and getting bored with her life, she hasn’t any friends and to keep herself sane, writes an online blog called Dizzy Lizzy. This is where she can anonymously talk about her life. When her girl’s start their first day back at school, Beth meets Andi, another young Mum, whose daughter, Sophie, is in Charlotte’s class. They become friendly immediately and arrange play dates with their kids, so they can also get together.
    Beth’s two girls are as far different from each other as apples & oranges. Lucy, the eldest, is humble, quiet, happy to just be, not an over-achiever. Charlotte on the other hand is pretty, always very popular, very smart, teachers pet but has been known to show a little callousness, no empathy for others.
    Sophie is Andi’s daughter, not popular, has weight issues and is the easy target at school for bullies. While reading this part, about the social media harassment and then the online website made specifically to taunt Sophie, I cried…..it really hit home and for one reason. I recently read an online article about a 12 year old girl (Sophie’s age) who had no friends, no family life at all, she was sexually abused and would live steam to the social media site Kik, just to have some interaction with others, that’s how desperate she was for attention. Over Kik, some of her followers, realised just how vulnerable this beautiful child was and also told her a number of times to kill herself. I went back and watched every live stream she uploaded on YouTube and over the hours and hours of footage, I got to know this child, she was talented, she was beautiful and she was smart. But one day, she took her phone and live stream outside, laid the phone on the ground, angled up at a big tree in her yard, walked around for 40 minutes as she found rope and a bucket……and I watched her crying, telling everyone how sorry she was for not being good enough, as she kicked the bucket out from underneath her and hanged. Her body swung back and forth like a pendulum on a Grandfather Clock until the sun went down and you could no longer see her. I watched this about 6 weeks ago and am still haunted, and when I read this part, I sobbed, I’ve seen how much words on a screen can affect someone of this young age.
    Social media and bullying is something we all need to talk about and bring out into the open….we need to educate our children. Because if someone takes their own life, the tormentor in every respect, is nothing short of a murderer. Reading through this, I was shocked at the lack of empathy Charlotte would show towards Sophie, as she lay in a coma, after attempting suicide. But something didn’t sit right for me from reading the very first ‘The Golden Child’ Blog, because the language used in this blog seemed too old for Charlotte and I couldn’t quite see her saying these things….now I know why.
    I cannot imagine being in Beth’s shoes, doubting yourself, your parenting and how well you know your own child. I know that I believe I know everything about my own daughter and if one day I learnt something horrendous, it would shock me to the core too. You always want to believe the best in your kids. I found while reading this, I actually came to think of Beth as a single Mum, it was her struggling with the children and worrying all the time….Dan was always off at work. Or busy so that Beth could not communicate with him at all.
    I thought I knew where this story was heading but when I read the blog from ‘The Golden Child’ regarding inducing vomiting, I knew straight away….that was a twist.
    After this discovery….the book ended…..Wendy James….I could of read another few chapters easily. I didn’t want to stop there, I need to know what happened when Beth found out. AAaarrrggghhh…..
    I found Wendy James’s way of writing was so easy to read, so fluent and flowing. I never once lost track or misunderstood something. I thoroughly enjoyed the subject matter and think I will keep my eyes out now for ny other Wendy James books I see around….
    I would recommend ‘The Golden Child’ to anyone who wants a really good read, that’s interesting, relevant in todays culture and does describe quite well the mindset of adolescent girls today. A real page turner.

  9. This book is just brilliant and so compelling it is difficult to start writing and concising my review. I really don’t know where to start. Tragedy mixed with clever and frightening parts, it scared me, and heartbreaking. I was in shock , goosebumps and many questions as I am a mum to a daughter too!

    I loved it and really enjoyed the feelings/questions involved .
    Thank you giving me the opportunity to read this amazing book. 🙂

  10. Thank you to Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read this captivating novel by Australian author Wendy James. This novel was one that drew me in right from the start. The inclusion of the prologue at the beginning was interesting as it’s a short snippet from towards the conclusion of a story we haven’t read yet, and I guess it begins the thought process for the reader.

    The story is based on two families, with the main characters being the mothers and their 12 year old daughters. Beth and her daughter Charlotte have just moved with their family back to Australia and become acquainted with a family from school including Andi and her daughter Sophie. As the story progresses it is clear that Sophie is a victim and Charlotte is perpetuated as the bully. The book is told from the perspectives of these four characters and many events are covered twice so we can see how it is viewed from both families perspectives.

    This book is very powerful and I think it would be great for all teens and their parents to read as it covers some very important issues surrounding treating others, bullying, cyberbullying and the consequences. I think it may be a confronting read for some parents in particular as it demonstrates the concept of ‘how well do you really know your own child’ as neither Beth nor Andi are aware of any issues with their child until it is too late.

    The story progresses and just when I thought I was nearly at the end of the story and was wondering if it was almost going to be a slightly unrealistic happy ever after, a huge twist that in hindsight you can see has been building up for the entire story comes to light. The twist was revealed so close to the end of the book I was afraid the book wouldn’t have enough time to end properly but everything was written perfectly so it tied up just right yet left enough to our imagination. This twist changes how you view all the events of the novel and gives more weight of the concern of how well you really know your child. It really leaves you reflecting even more over the entire story.

    I would recommend this book – it’s not a feel good type of novel but it’s one that is full of important issues that in this digital age seems more important than ever for us to educate our children on.

  11. The Golden Child is a great example that life on the internet isn’t always what it seems. Beth finds her life as a busy mum a bit hard to handle. When her husband’s job is sending them back to Newcastle Australia after living in America for many years, her two teenage daughters are less than impressed. But as an online blogger, Lizzy the expat mum, everything is just peachy. Until things start happening that involve her youngest daughter Charlie, dangerous things like the supposedly accidental poisoning of a school mate. I enjoyed the contemporary style of writing Wendy James used, setting it out like parts of a blog was really topical & fitting with the theme of the book. The story kept me intrigued too, I guess I could see a little of myself in Beth, we all have a bit of an online persona versus the real deal! I’d recommend The Golden Child as a great read and something a little bit different to what you read every day.

  12. Thank you for the opportunity to read ” The Golden Child” by Wendy James. It took me a few sessions to really get into the book but by the middle of it managed to finish it in one sitting. My first words to leave my mouth when I finished was “wow what a twist”. This books characters and the events occurring around them, heightened the need for me to be more aware of what my children get up to in the virtual as well as the real world. The bullying subjected to the character “Sophie” had me so upset but also reminded me how soul destroying a child’s words and actions can be towards another child. I sympathised with “Beth” when she had the realisation that her daughter could be a bully after she had invested so much time and teachings into her as well as her sibbling. A must read for any parent and teen!

  13. WOW !!!!! what a book and a story line.

    This book had me hooked from the beginning, The themes in this book are very raw and very real.
    Bullying has always been around and is nothing new but what scares us as adults is that society now hides behind cyber bullying and it’s even worse.
    The author has written this book beautifully, portraying the bully as an every day person who has absolutely nothing better to do.
    The story also makes you wonder as a parent , “where could I have gone wrong ”
    It only took me 3 sittings to finish this book, but I needed more.
    This book makes you feel many emotions such as anger, frustration, hate and I kept reading thinking when is this bully going to wake up and realise the devastation they have caused.
    Well done Wendy James , because even the Golden Child makes many mistakes !

  14. Ok so I’ve attempted reading this half a dozen times now and just can’t seem to get into it like all the other members seem to have 🙁
    Not really sure why not , maybe it’s just not my sort of book . So have passed it on to my mum as I’m sure she will love it . Sorry again

  15. Thank you for the opportunity to read Wendy James’ compelling read The Golden Child.

    Bullying and social media – two contemporary issues that seem to be instrinsically inherent in modern teenage life.

    James’ tale is a confronting portrayal of these themes intertwining and the devastating outcomes that can occur.

    Her ability to write from various perspectives was brilliant and certainly left me questioning and pondering long after the final page.

    A definite page turner. I’d highly recommend

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