I have three months left to call Katie my older sister. Then the gap will close and I will pass her. I will get older. But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old.
Hannah’s world is in pieces and she doesn’t need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn’t have problems?
Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn’t afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?
In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl’s struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.
The Protected could perhaps be my favourite book of 2015. I had never heard of Claire Zorn before The Protected, but now I have a new author to add to my list of “Best Authors of All Time”. And after only one book. That’s impressive.
The Protected looks like your typical YA book. Bright cover, interesting name, nice big font with the silhouette of a walking girl on her phone. But look beyond the bright lights and you begin to see something else.
Claire Zorn has real skill. It takes finesse and subtle expertise to write a book like The Protected and Zorn has really exercised her writing prowess. And this is only her second published book. Let me explain.
At the start, we already know that Katie dies. It says so on the blurb. It says so in the very first paragraph. It’s the whole driving point of the novel. This means that you should be prepared for Katie’s death. That it shouldn’t be a shock. That it shouldn’t be sad… right? NOT.
The Protected is written in segments of the present and the past, and we leap from the gloomy, dreary, Katie-less present, to the sometimes equally gloomy, dreary but Katie-full past. Each segment of past strengthens the relationship the reader has with Katie, only to destroy that relationship when you remember that she dies, when it goes into the present again. Is it possible to make a character and then kill her in the space of a single page while still breaking the reader’s heart? And then do it all again in another page? Apparently so.
The McCann family are torn apart by Katie’s death. Mum becomes reclusive and depressed, sleeping long hours and only waking up to eat (and even then, she doesn’t really eat) and sort out the bills. She talks very little and almost ignores the fact that she has a second daughter. Dad is injured from the accident that killed Katie, and when Mum blames Dad for Katie’s death, the relationship between Hannah’s parents is strained at best.
Hannah, Katie’s sister, has had to deal with torturous bullying for several years, before Katie died. After Katie dies, the bullying stops. She stops talking to people and people stop talking to her. She starts seeing psychologists, therapists, counsellors, but none of them really help until she meets the slightly quirky and down to earth school counsellor, Anne.
With the help of the people around her, like her confronting yet understanding neighbour, Mrs Van, and the popular, mysterious guy at school, Josh, who seems to have taken a likening to her, Hannah finally manages to crack open the shell that is her life.
In conclusion, I really feel like The Protected has no real flaw to point out. With all the dark and depressing themes (e.g. death, grief, depression, bullying) itis definitely a novel for the slightly older reader. Don’t read if you don’t like depressing books that will make you cry, but please do if you don’t mind that kind of stuff.
The Protected is out now. Buy at your local bookstore.
- Title: The Protected
- Author: Claire Zorn
- Paperback: 264 pages
- Publisher: University of Queensland Press (1 August 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0702250198
- URL: Penguin Books