The Quiet and the Loud

Dial. Mar. 2023. 400p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593354582.
Gr 9 Up–After years of estrangement, 18-year-old Georgia’s alcoholic father reaches out to tell her he’s dying. George doesn’t know what to do, so she does what she does best—buries it inside and doesn’t share her indecision about visiting him in Seattle (George is a white Australian who lives in Sydney) with anyone else. Her friends are dealing with enough: Tess is pregnant and struggling with overwhelming anxiety, and Laz is a climate activist distraught by the 2019 wildfires. At home, George’s life in an artistic family is a riot of color and noise, which she escapes by running and kayaking. One day while out on Sydney Harbour, she sees a beautiful girl cartwheeling in the water. An aspiring filmmaker of Sri Lankan heritage, Calliope is the first person to make George feel cared for instead of needed. As pressure to decide about her dad mounts and Tess struggles with post-partum depression, George retreats into herself. The novel intersperses George’s poetry and flashbacks to her chaotic childhood amid the present-day time line. As in Fox’s debut (How It Feels to Float), this work is lyrical and nuanced in its depiction of the silence and secrecy of families grappling with mental illness and addiction. Issues such as PTSD, anxiety, climate grief, and post-partum depression are explored with grace and complexity, and George’s journey to speaking up for herself and deciding what she needs from the people in her life is rewarding.
VERDICT A thoughtful novel with strikingly rich characterization, recommended for all collections.

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