This is the first book I’ve read from Chantelle Atkins and I loved it. I’m amazed that this is her debut novel, it was that good.
It is an emotional, character driven tale about a sixteen-year-old girl coping with the difficulties of being a teenager and living within a broken family (her mother is separated from Lou’s father and is in a new relationship.)
Lou doesn’t want to be that overlooked, overweight girl anymore. The passages about her not wanting to eat are powerful and frightening to read.
The Mess of Me is also a tale of friendship, of love, mothers, daughters, parents and sons. There are many hard hitting topics throughout including escalating family violence, alcohol and drug use, drug trafficking, self harm, and cries for help but these subjects are handled with great sensitivity. The dialogues are sprinkled with wonderful teenage banter to add touches of humour to lighten the narrative.
My two favourite characters were Lou and her best friend Joe who she’s known forever… since she was a baby! Marianne, and Joe’s older brothers Travis and Leon were also well written as were all the adults in the book. Perhaps the only character I felt less connection to was Sara, Lou’s older sister.
Life can be confusing and awkward for teenagers but this also applies to adults too! I loved how The Mess of Me conveyed our vulnerability, our frailness, how making mistakes and bad choices can have a huge impact on our lives and the lives of those we love. Sometimes parents get it spectacularly wrong and The Mess of Me does a fantastic job of portraying that flip side too.
There are many wonderful scenes with Lou and her mum chatting, drawing closer together, beginning to understand each other. I was so touched by these, having two daughters myself, remembering those teenage angst flare ups made me cry. As a parent all you want is for your children to be happy, safe and well and when that is threatened the fear and helplessness is immense. I don’t want to go in too much detail for fear of spoiling the book for you but The Mess of Me portrayed that fear and hopelessness so well.
After finishing The Mess of Me I was left with a sense of hope rising up from this dark tale. I enjoyed it on so many levels.
I will definitely read more from this author. One of my favourite books of 2021.
Highly recommended – 5 stars.
I will be interviewing Chantelle about Chasing Driftwood – her creative writing group soon.
In the meantime… check out Chantelle’s writing…
Connect with Chantelle at:-
Review by Marjorie Mallon
YA/Paranormal Author/Poet/Reviewer at Kyrosmagica Writing and Blogging