Grace meets Ethan the night she is planning to kill herself. After drinking most of a bottle of vodka, she finds herself imprisoned in a mysterious white room with Ethan as her warder. He leaves pens and paper for her and eventually she begins to note down what has been happening to her. Initially her life appears to be fairly normal – she has a best friend Sal and a boyfriend Nat but she tells us: ‘It’s when I’m alone that the doubt sets in. It’s been that way for years. As long as there are people around, I can pretend everything’s OK. But I need that audience to pretend for, otherwise it doesn’t work. Alone, I’m not that easy to fool.’
Eventually the real story emerges and we begin to understand the despair that has led Grace to want to destroy herself. People have been taken in by her cheerful party girl façade but Grace’s life is out of control – she has been cutting since she was 15, often gets drunk and she uses sex as a calling card. She misses her father who left and blames her distant and emotionally unavailable mother.
Grace writes down her dreams as the days go by in the strange limbo of her imprisonment. As she writes, puzzling events somehow become clearer, assumptions are questioned and new perspectives emerge: for example, did her mother really drive her father away or did he choose to leave? Meanwhile the mysterious Ethan does nothing more than feed her and occasionally prompt her. Grace begins to feel on the edge of something and that something, she realises, is ‘the truth’.
Grace is a psychologically convincing troubled teenager and her strange predicament is in itself the stuff of dreams. Cat Clarke handles her multi-layered story with skill and introduces a bold twist at the end but Reader, you must read it yourself… A most accomplished and daring debut novel.