Rafaela Ramsay – better known as Rafi – is a girl of 14 who is a progressive mute. Initially she could speak some words to some people but she has now lapsed into complete silence. Rafi is the youngest child of five. She has two brothers and two sisters, all of whom she regards as infinitely superior to herself. The only other child living at home is the second youngest, Silas, whom Rafi adores, and who was the last person Rafi spoke to.
Travelling home from school on the bus, Rafi and Silas hear the story of a girl from another school. When she dumped her boyfriend, he posted obscene photos of her on a website. Now the girl, Josie, has been ostracised at her school. By sheer coincidence, getting off the bus Rafi and Silas meet Josie. Silas has the bright idea of inviting her to come and talk to Rafi, since Rafi is a good listener. Initially Rafi is not enthusiastic about her new duties. But these are two girls with problems. Soon they begin to build a relationship. Josie has the innovative idea of buying Rafi her first phone so that she can text her thoughts to Josie – a breakthrough moment. Silas decides to play his part in the campaign to help Josie. He has great expertise in computers. He decided to use his skill to wreak revenge on the boy who humiliated Josie. But Silas’s skills are soon noticed and recruited by radical political agents.
This book is a compelling read. Jarratt has a proven track record as an expert depicter of young people with problems. Her presentation of Rafi is convincing and moving. I do however raise a couple of questions over this book. The radical insurgents who recruit Silas are convincing too. I just wonder whether their destructive activities are depicted initially (though not later) in such ways as to make them appealing to young readers, to use a current term to ‘radicalise’ them. This reviewer must also regretfully state that Josie is just too mature and understanding for a 16-year-old. If only there were girls like Josie in the real world.