Ballad For A Mad Girl is the fourth novel by Australian author, Vikki Wakefield. Seventeen-year-old Grace Foley’s dad has grounded her (again) for a stupid prank (and yeah, she probably deserved it). But tonight, there’s a pipe challenge on: all her friends will be there; her daredevil reputation and her record are at stake; she’s got to show those Sacred Heart kids who’s the champion, so of course she’s going to sneak out. But at the quarry, when she’s on the pipe running across the gully, something strange happens. She freezes, and later doesn’t even remember how she got off the pipe.
Twenty-three years ago, seventeen-year-old Hannah Holt went missing, and the gully is where locals believe that William Dean put her body. The gully is where, a year later, he jumped to his death, many say from guilt. Maybe there are ghosts there, and maybe they’re haunting Grace, because now, everything in her life has gotten weird: Diesel the dog is acting spooked around her; she’s seeing strange things in corners; she drew something in art class she just can’t explain; the TV and the clock radio are acting up; and something’s not right with the friends she’s had since third class (although maybe that’s not so recent).
What a great tale Wakefield gives the reader. An original plot with a twist or two and a good dose of the paranormal to keep it interesting. Wakefield’s characters are quirky but credible, their dialogue is authentic, and she perfectly captures the feel of a small town. As Grace and her friends deal with growing up while trying to remain loyal to each other, they encounter all the usual adolescent afflictions including raging hormones and peer pressure, but also grief. Domestic violence also features. This is a brilliant coming-of-age tale that will certainly have wider appeal than the Young Adult genre in which it sits. Recommended.