Take My Word for It by John Marsden

From the back cover:
Lisa Morris could be the girl next door. She could be your cousin. She could be sitting behind you in class.

She could be you.

But Lisa, cool and beautiful Lisa, remote and private Lisa, has more going on in her life than anyone imagines.

Only her journal knows the truth about her life. Only her journal—and you.

This short little book functions as both companion piece and epilogue to Marsden’s So Much to Tell You, a (slightly better) book written as the journal of Marina, a silent, traumatized girl attending an Australian boarding school called Warrington. Take My Word for It presents the journal of Marina’s classmate, Lisa, who appears tough and cool in the eyes of others but has her own share of problems.

While I did enjoy reading Take My Word for It, I suspect it was never published in the US (I imported my copy from Australia) because it just doesn’t stand on its own very well. Lisa is a realistic character, and I have some sympathy for her struggle to accept the fact that her parents have divorced (which she believes is her fault) and that, as time goes on, the family is proceeding separately down paths that take them further and further away from the childhood home for which Lisa pines.

But the most interesting parts of this novel for me were the times we got insight into the other novel. Why, for example, did Lisa break down and cry at one point, sending Marina into a tizzy of worry and indecision? What does Marina actually look like? And, best, what happens after Marina finally speaks to her father? I guess I had expected the stories to end at the same point, but upon reflection, why would they conveniently do that? So, Marina comes back to school after seeing her dad over a break, and very gradually begins to talk to her dormmates. It’s nice, though I could’ve done without the dangled thread that Marina might leave Warrington, which Marsden never follows up on.

Like Marsden’s other protagonists, Lisa has a secret that she obliquely references while writing. In Marina’s case, we knew something had happened to her, but not what. Specifics were doled out sparingly and it was at least moderately suspenseful. In Lisa’s case, her secret is pretty obvious early on, so further attempts at cryptic hinting are just kind of annoying. On the plus side, she uses loads of interesting Australian slang, so I’ve learned several cool new words, like “dob” and “bludge.”

I sincerely doubt there’s any such thing as a lousy book by John Marsden, but this one, alas, is not my favorite.

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