Yet another gripping and powerful book from Lisa Williamson. Grab you tissues now – you’re going to need them!
Fourteen year old Ro Snow doesn’t go to parties, doesn’t go out with friends and works really hard to ensure she NEVER has visitors at home. Ro knows she’s missing out but she doesn’t have a choice. She simply can’t risk anyone finding out where she lives because then they would discover the horrific state of 48 Arcadia Avenue. Her mum, Bonnie, is a hoarder and Ro lives in terror that social services will find out about the squalor she is forced to live in. But then Tanvi joins Ro’s class at school and Noah moves in next door. Out of the blue, Ro finds herself forming tentative friendships – friendships that risk revealing everything she’s worked so hard to hide.
This is yet another gripping and powerful book from Lisa Williamson: The Art of Being Normal won a myriad of awards while I loved All About Mia so much I awarded it a maximum 5 star rating. In Paper Avalanche, we have another distinctive teen voice and a character dropped into a situation that’s guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings. (Grab you tissues when you pick up this book – you’re going to need them!).
Despite her miserable situation, Ro’s first person voice is full of warmth and humour and we immediately like her. We also quickly come to love both her new friends – Tanvi and Noah. (As an aside, it’s refreshing to have a principal character in a book who is from a Hindi background and similarly positive that this is presented as just one part of her identity).
In contrast to the teens, the majority of the adult characters (with the exception of Tanvi’s parents, Ro’s boss, Eric, and music teacher, Mr Milford) are utterly unlikeable. Top of this list is probably Ro’s dad (followed closely by her step-mum, Melanie). While we don’t blame him for leaving Ro’s mum, it’s impossible to sympathise with someone who shows such as callous lack of interest in Ro’s life, especially given the constant comparison to the way he treats his step-daughter, Izzy.
Ro’s mum, Bonnie, is equally hard to empathise with. She’s totally self-absorbed and childishly unreliable – not to mention solely responsible for the mess in Ro’s life. There is, however, a glimmer of light that she’s not all bad (unlike Ro’s dad) and we get just enough glimpses into Ro’s happy memories with Bonnie to prevent us hating her.
Although this is a character-driven story, there is a strong plot-line. Indeed, as with Lisa Williamson’s last book, I ended up carrying the book with me everywhere I went just in case I had the opportunity to sneak another chapter. The tear-jerking climax is particularly powerful and I liked the way – although the story is tied up by the end – there isn’t a magic solution to Ro’s life. For example, she has to accept that her dad is never going to be the father she wants him to be.
If you enjoyed this, I’d recommend you read No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen – an equally moving story but this time about hidden homelessness. Alternatively, you can’t go wrong with Lisa Williamson’s other books – The Art of Being Normal or All About Mia.
Date: January 2019
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Author: Lisa Williamson