Joelene Reviews: The 10pm Question by Kate de Goldi
Twelve-year-old Frankie is the youngest child in his family. He’s also the one who holds all of the pieces of it together. His anxiety makes him worry about the flat batteries in the fire-alarm, the lack of change for bus money, and the dwindling food supplies in the house. When the stress becomes too much – which is often – he consults his mother about the things that keep him up at night.
Every evening at 10pm, she is ready for the questions about his rash (is it cancer?), about the cat (might he give the family worms?) and about the health of the kids at school (could Frankie catch something off them?). Ma is the only comfort Frankie knows when life becomes too frightening.
But he is growing up and with Sydney, the new girl at school, asking all sorts of uncomfortable questions about Frankie’s family – and about his mother in particular – it might just be time for Frankie to face up to the reality of his family life. No matter how terrifying it might be.
The 10pm Question is a sweet novel that is aimed at middle grade students, but is relevant to a much wider age-group. Exploring themes of friendship, family and the uncertainty of growing up, this novel delves into difficult issues with warmth and care.
With anxiety being a huge problem for children – and for their parents – it’s good to see a novel acknowledge the matter in an engaging way that takes into account the complexities of the issue. This isn’t a social problem novel by any means. All of the characters in 10pm Question are multifaceted with their own thoughts and goals and ways of dealing with things. Frankie suffers from sometimes debilitating anxiety, but is no less human for that. He’s not a vehicle for a story about anxiety. He’s an intelligent child with a range of interests that include birds, drawing, language and sport. He has friends and can socialise with ease. He is also prone to blocking out things that he doesn’t want to see.
Frankie’s friends and family are just as well-rounded as he is. They have their own ways of dealing with the abnormalities in their families and lives – not all of them healthy. It’s in seeing how these flawed and complex characters interact with each other that 10pm Question really shines. By exploring the relationships Frankie has with the other characters, De Goldi emphasises that a person suffering anxiety is no more or less flawed than anyone else.
10pm Question is one of those books that is a good read for a myriad of reasons. It’s funny, has some amazing characters, and it follows the kinds of characters that chose their own path. Aside from that though, it’s the kind of book that will be a delight for readers who empathise with Frankie’s worries. It doesn’t promise miracle cures – but explores some valid issues in an understanding and positive way.
10pm Question – Kate De Goldi
Longacre Child (2008)