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There is something not quite right in Manna Creek and Sasha is determined to find out what it is. Not only that, she starts having premonitions about events that happen in the local area and she seems to be able to communicate with her father’s new police dog, King.
Sasha was in trouble back in the city and her bad luck and bad choices seem to have followed her. Can Sasha solve the mysteries of Manna Creek, both in the present and the past, and come to terms with her own unusual gifts?
Dying to Tell Me is an intriguing middle fiction mystery with a supernatural twist. There is a local crime to solve (if only Sasha can get her father to see that she can help him) and there is a mystery in the past that continues to have an impact in the present.
The supernatural themes of the novel don’t dominate, but rather work as plot devices to help Sasha and readers unravel the mysteries, both past and present. Sasha’s ‘gifts’ also add depth to the story as we follow her internal struggle to accept her abilities and the way others respond to them.
I loved the depth of the characters in the story. While most peripheral characters are merely part of the developing drama in Manna Creek, Sasha and her family have a deeper dynamic that goes beyond their current experiences. While many young readers might not find a point of connection with the small country town setting or Sasha’s ‘gifts’, they may well recognise themselves in Sasha’s frustrations with herself and her life, her anger towards a parent who abandoned her, the mixture of love and annoyance inspired by a younger sibling and the love (and guilt) that motivates her to put her father’s needs ahead of her own. Or perhaps they will simply recognise that families can be complicated and sometimes it is easy to become confused about who we are and what we really want.
I also enjoyed the Australian setting and tone of the novel. I think it is important for Australian teens and tweens to read novels with cultural references they are familiar with, especially when this is handled as well as Clark does, creating a genuine Australian feel through the language and interactions of her characters and the descriptions of the surroundings.
Dying to Tell Me is another wonderful book by Australia author Sherryl Clark, sure to intrigue late primary and early high school readers with an interest in crime stories and mysteries.
Title: Dying to Tell Me
Author: Sherryl Clark
Publisher: Sherryl Clark, $16.95 RRP (published in the US by Kane Miller)
Publication Date: 1 February 2014
For ages: 10-14
Type: Middle Fiction