Ballad for a Mad Girl reviewed by Tara

Seventeen year old Grace Foley is never short of ideas for pranks. She relishes the buzz she feels just before a prank, and the way fear makes life sharper and more intense. She pushes the boundaries and takes her friends along. When her record in the pipe challenge is contested by a student from a rival school, Grace sets out to defend her title. In the midst of her attempt, as she is balanced over the deep quarry, she freezes. Is it a prank? Is she loosing her mind? Is it something more sinister?

Grace senses the answer is buried in the mystery of Hannah Holt’s disappearance twenty years ago. It is rumoured that Hannah is buried in the quarry. It is the same quarry where Hannah’s classmate and suspected murderer jumped from the pipe to his death. The more Grace digs into the cold case, the more the mystery consumes her. She becomes alienated from her concerned family and friends and forgets to take care of herself. Will she find the answers she is looking for or will she lose everything she values?

Ballard of a Mad Girl is a supernatural mystery for young adults. The events are typical of teenage life in a country town, including the alliances and rivalries between schools.

The characters are authentic and reflect the subtle changes amongst friends in their final year at school. The suspicion of her concerned family and friends that Grace’s mental health may be deteriorating after the death of her mother and their subsequent relocation from the family farm is plausible. This weighs strongly against the shadowy presence and the series of supernatural events, some of which appear to be experienced by Grace alone. Only the suspicious change in the behaviour of Grace’s dog suggest that there is more to Grace’s experience than her concerned family and friends can see.

There is the perfect amount of reasonable doubt to maintain the equilibrium between reality and the paranormal. It is easy to get caught up in the story and identify with Grace and her obsession. The subtle clues as the mystery unfolded maintained intrigue. It was hard to determine what was real and what was imagined until the end.

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