Title: Girl Detached
Author: Manuela Salvi
Publisher: The Bucket List
Source: Free Proof Copy from YALC 2016
Banned books often involve fairly contentious or difficult themes. Girl Detached is no different. Banned in its native Italy and withdrawn from sale, it explores teenage grooming and prostitution. Now brought to the UK where it has been translated and published by The Bucket List (a new imprint of Barrington Stoke), Girl Detached can finally audience and reveal the disturbing truths hidden within its pages.
Girl Detached follows a teenaged girl called Alek whose life it suddenly turned upside down after her grandmother, who she lives with, dies and her theatre group receives word that it is having to close. Forced to return to the mother who left her as a baby, Alek befriends her new neighbour Megan, is introduced through Megan to the handsome Ruben and finds herself being pulled into a world she never knew existed.
In Girl Detached, Silva does a brilliant job of showing the gradual progression of Alek’s introduction into Megan’s world. The reader is introduced to the seedy underground in short bursts, each one developing in intensity as the book goes on. This is shown in parallel to other parts of Alek’s life – her insecurities, her work at the theatre and her trying to settle into her new home; all of which only adds more depth to the novel.
Alek is heart-breakingly naïve as a character and it is this that makes this book work so brilliantly The only time Alek feels self-confident is when she is on stage, pretending to be someone else. She is relatable and comes across as someone you could easily know in real life. As a reader, you easily see the danger she is in, but her insecurities blind her and her obliviousness makes the message all the more powerful.
The other characters are equally well-defined. Ruben works as the antagonist of the novel – he is charming, but there is also a slightly sinister quality behind him. Megan was one of the few characters which did not feel quite real, however that fits her character quite well. Helena, however, was particular favourite, and I do wish more had been made of her character.
The world that this is set in is not pretty. It is dark and disturbing and it is very real. Girl Detached takes place in this world, or at least the underbelly of it. While we don’t see it all at first, bits are gradually revealed as the novel progresses until the big picture is revealed at the end. It is a disturbing picture and one which stays with you long after the book has come to an end. This is effective as by balancing the reveal with glimpses of a non-descript neighbourhood and school, Silva shows that this can happen anywhere.
Girl Detached is a book which really stays with you and makes you think. It is gritty and disturbing but the wording makes it a quick and easy read. While the content is difficult, you are pulled into Alek’s story which makes it all the more frustrating to see what she is put through. The only reason this book doesn’t get 5 stars is the ending. I did not feel like it fit the rest of the book and thought it could have been done a little bit better. It is bittersweet though, and does conclude the novel fairly well.
Girl Detached will be released on 8th September 2016