A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell

Notable for Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year – Older Readers


It seems that losing your virginity is still something to write about. Of course I’m simplifying matters because A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell is not just the physical act of sexual intimacy but all the gritty, grueling messiness of growing up and figuring things out. It almost hurts to read a story about teenage madness; makes you recall your own wild ideas and adolescent plotting and watching the characters in A Small Madness go into free fall is a painful experience. You want to shout ” grow up!!!! but of course if they were grown up we would hope they’d do a damn better job at facing up to reality.

Our characters, Rose, Liv and Micheal, all have differing perspectives on what reality actually means.  Rose is intelligent, creative, sensitive; she wants to be an actress and find herself in her art. She vehemently believes that Micheal is a person she can trust and rely on and Micheal (in that offhand, distant teenage boy way) believes that she is the girl he will one day marry. So it’s okay for them to have sex and really, you can hardly get a virgin pregnant the first time so condoms are optional. Got that sickening feeling inside your tummy yet? I’m grimacing as I type.

Anyway, Rose is  pregnant and as mind boggling as this is she can’t seem to get a grip on being with child, still at school and possibly having to forgo all her future plans. Liv, her best friend, is the driving force in the story. Her understanding is solid and grounded in a firm belief that things must be dealt with. Micheal comes from a religious background with parents that are conservative and rigid. Telling them that his teenage girlfriend is knocked up would totally derail the plans his stern father has made for him.

This is where a little maturity and experience would come in handy. Rose pretends that her pregnancy will simply disappear like the measles or a runaway dog and Micheal aids and abets because he can’t face his parents, his absent future, hard talking Liv and a scared Rose. The consequences are wrenching but inevitable and a stark reminder that adolescence is both exhilarating and brutal. No wonder most people hesitate a bit when you ask them ‘would you go back to your teens if you could? I have to tell you most times I get a resounding no!! I would I think but only if I could take a little bit of the current me along. Wouldn’t really be the same then, would it?