Jen has finally got her daughter home.
But why does fifteen-year-old Lana still feel lost?
When Lana goes missing for four desperate days and returns refusing to speak of what happened, Jen fears the very worst. She thinks she’s failed as a mother, that her daughter is beyond reach and that she must do something – anything – to bring her back.
The family returns to London where everyone but Jen seems happy to carry on as normal. Jen’s husband Hugh thinks she’s going crazy – and their eldest daughter Meg is tired of Lana getting all the attention. But Jen knows Lana has changed, and can’t understand why.
Does the answer lie in those four missing days?
And how can Jen find out?
What I Thought:
After hearing such excellent things about Emma Healey’s first novel, Elizabeth is Missing, I was excited to read Whistle in the Dark although, based on reading reviews of the first book, I gather that it is very much plot driven, while this book is more focused on character.
That certainly isn’t to say that there are not dramatic moments in this book – coming from a starting point of a missing teenager is not exactly tame – but as the novel progresses, each flashback and each chapter from a different viewpoint carefully build a picture of a family and show that just because you are related, it doesn’t mean you can relate well to each other.
I don’t know yet what it is like to be mother to a teenager, but it seems incredibly hard work, based on the experience of Jen the mother in this book. I couldn’t help but empathise with her as she desperately tries to find out what has happened to Lana in her missing four days while, at the same time, trying not to alienate Lana and potentially make her disappear again.
Most of my sympathy, I will admit, was with Jen, which comes purely from the perspective of a parent, but I have no doubt that a teenager reading this book would have a different take on it!
As the novel goes on, it’s clear that Lana’s disappearance is not the most important element at play – finding that out is almost incidental – the real emphasis here is in the relationships of the family. Easy-going Dad, Hugh and older sister Meg who has had to take a backseat ever since Lana came along are almost shut out of the tense drama going on between Jen and Lana. So much so that Meg feels unable to share parts of her life with her parents.
As a character study, Whistle in the Dark is beautifully written and raises questions about support for young people struggling with their mental health, and also support for their parents who are often left alone to deal with situations that are beyond their comprehension and experience. It doesn’t necessarily provide any easy answers, but does remind us that families like Lana’s are out there in great numbers.
Whistle in the Dark is published by Penguin.
To find out more about this book, and Emma Healey, you can check out her website.
This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of Whistle in the Dark in paperback. Why not check out some of the amazing blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content.
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.