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Reviewed by Nell Mace-David
Opening sentence
A heartfelt and poignant story, reviewed by Nell Mace-David
November 21, 2022

The 10 PM Question by Kate De Goldi is a profound book about the unsolvable problems of real life and finding courage in the face of adversity.

Twelve-year-old Frankie Parsons is an average boy. Or, he’d like to be anyway. It is kind of hard to be normal when your mother never leaves the house, but then again, that is Frankie’s normal. And on top of that, Frankie has questions. Questions like ‘are the smoke alarm batteries flat?,’ and ‘does the Fat Controller (Frankie’s cat) have worms, and does that mean he does too?’ Nobody else in the house seems to care about the smoke alarms or cat-induced worms. Not his sister Gordana, his brother Louie, or his father, who everyone calls Uncle George. Well, nobody cares except his mother. Every night at 10 pm, without fail, Frankie goes trotting down the hall to his mother with a burning question about some sort of impending disaster. And, without fail, she always manages to calm his fears, even when everyone else ignores them.

Frankie’s mother, Francie, loves all things Russia. She learned Russian in college, and since then, her love has extended to Russian opera, Russian tragedies, and Russian food. Oh, the food. Francie is, as Frankie puts it, a mean cook, and boy is he right. She runs a baking business from home and just reading about the cakes she bakes made me hungry. Yeah, she hasn’t left the house in over nine years, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t successful, so why should Frankie question it?

This is exactly how Frankie sees it. Of course, sometimes he wishes she were more like other mothers, but he tries not to think about it. What if asking upsets the delicate balance that Frankie’s family has established? There is no way he would ever take that chance. So, he doesn’t ask questions, or at least not about that.

Or, he didn’t until someone else came along and started asking those questions for him. Sydney Vickerman has dreads, a nose stud, and a big personality. She asks more questions than Frankie does, but, unlike Frankie, she also asks difficult questions too. Slowly, Frankie’s carefully built world begins to unravel, with each and every question. Can he push himself out of his comfort zone and find the strength to ask difficult questions?

De Goldi has written such a beautiful and relatable story, which, though full of sadness, has wings of hope.

One of the many wonderful things about this book was how real it was. The setting and characters were something you could find in a regular community in New Zealand, and how relatable they were was one of the first things that pulled me in. On top of that, the situation was, though not personally relatable for me, something that could, and probably is happening in the world right now. Everyone has worries sometimes, and really, Frankie Parsons could be anyone, and maybe everyone has a little bit of Frankie Parsons in them too.

I also love the way De Goldi tackles these difficult but important subjects of mental illness and anxiety in such a sensitive, tender way. They aren’t really easier to read about, as she doesn’t sugarcoat them (which I like), but this book opens up the subject, which gives more room for understanding. Also, the way she cuts through the sadness with moments of joy. If someone asked me to describe this book in one word, I would say that it was hopeful. So, so hopeful.

I would recommend this book to anyone +aged twelve and above who is looking for an honest, realistic book that maybe isn’t super happy, but is encouraging and full of spirit. I hope that you read this book, and if you do, that you enjoy it as much as I did because honestly, I have never read anything like it. Happy reading!

- Nell is 14, homeschooled, and lives in Dunedin.
Author & Illustrator: Kate De Goldi
Publisher: Longacre Press