Diana Noonan, author of Half my life, writes a credible novel based around a cultural divide Katie Paphadjis faces. Katie is the daughter of a Greek fish and chip shop owner living in Wellington. Katie’s grandmother (yiayia) is dying in Greece and this results in an impromptu family visit.
Katie displays a great deal of teenage angst that presents through issues with her boyfriend, self worth/self harming and a disconnected relationship with her father.
These teenage issues are explored sensitively. The following is an example of how Noonan creatively works her characters to expose Katie’s challenges. An old Greek lady, a regular customer (and one who may be Katie’s mother’s confidante) gives Katie her own gold cross saying “All the Greek girls, they wear the cross…. You put it on. It’s gonna keep you safe…”
Katie ... “tucked the cross down the front of my teeshirt. I didn't want my father to see it. Not when we had no tenderness to share.”
Noonan offers sustained tension for the reader not only through Katie’s challenges, but also through mystery that Katie attempts to solve. Katie’s mother says Katie should stay out of the mystery.
“We’re in a country we don’t know anything about, with a language we don’t understand. In fact…. we’re part of a family we don’t understand. So let’s keep well out of something that is none of our business.”
This is a multi-layered, thought provoking story worthy of close reading. The text itself, with double line spacing, is easily accessible for junior high students.
Title: Half my life
Author: Diana Noonan
Publisher: One Tree House
Date of Publication: March 2020
Reviewer: Michele Ayres, Librarian, Motueka High School, Tasman
How highly are you recommending this book? Recommended
What’s the books’ opening sentence? “He wants to go back to Greece?” I was so astonished I could barely speak.