Author: Wendy James
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.