If fourteen-year-old Kirra is having a mid-life crisis now, then it doesn’t bode well for her life expectancy. Her so-called friends bully her, whatever semblance of a mother she had has been drowned at the bottom of a gin bottle ever since her dad left them for another woman, and now a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth. Kirra and the ghost make a pact. She’ll prove who murdered him almost twenty years ago if he does three things for her. He makes her popular, he gets her parents back together, and he doesn’t haunt her. Things aren’t so simple however, and Kirra realises that people can be haunted in more ways than one.
To quote a line from an incredibly wise author by the name of Megan Jacobson, “this is the kind of book that makes you stop and just rest the pages on your chest from the truth of it”. Yellow is a brilliant, emotionally charged book that reveals so much about the various struggles in people’s lives. There is an incredible amount of beauty and honesty and raw strength in this story; Jacobson captures so much from so many angles and connects them together into this life of a fourteen-year-old.
Kirra Barley is my hero. I love her so much, she speaks to me on so many levels and she is so much braver and stronger than she could ever give herself credit for. I am so fiercely proud of her and everything she does, even the bad stuff. She is shy but she has dreams of being popular. Despite continually being berated and bullied by her so called friends, she is always out to impress them, always wanting to fit in. She doesn’t revel in being the outsider, she wants friends, she needs someone to talk to and it crushes you when she doesn’t get it.
Kirra’s so desperate to have friends she jumps at the chance to help a ghost she isn’t entirely sure is real, and wants him to make her popular and fix her family. What’s fantastic about this is that Jacobson doesn’t let the paranormal aspect take over from this real story, yet in a way Boogie’s ghost still does. Kirra’s efforts to help him takes her down certain paths, some good some not, and it makes you realise how desperate she has become and how unable she is to cope with what’s happening around her.
As much as you hate some of these characters and how much they frustrate and anger you, there is no denying how fantastic they are. They’re all as complex and well developed as each other and even with the short attention given to a few of them, there are clever ways Jacobson reveals who they are deep down.
The emotions definitely begin early on and stay in varying degrees until the final page. Yellow grabs onto your heart and will take it on a tough and brutal journey filled with pain and surprises and twists that you will not believe. It’s down to earth despite the fact there’s a ghost in a phone box, and it’s filled with characters who have flaws and failings and while you can’t forgive everything, it’s evident some of them are doing the best they can.
The best way to describe this story is a lot of little heartbreaks joined together, but as Jacobson made me realise, it also has lots of bits of glue and band-aids. For every moment you mourn for Kirra (there’s no pity it’s straight up mourning), there is another part that lifts your spirits and makes things ok. This perfect balance is what makes this story work. It’s not a constant problem/solution type story, but when you see Kirra’s world crush her, there’s a moment that makes you glad she has some light.
It isn’t all heartache and pain I promise, there are light-hearted moments and a gripping plot that pulls you along and makes you become invested in this town and its people. But Jacobson doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities either, and together with these wonderful moments a story emerges that astounds and amazes. This is definitely a story that stays with you long after you’ve finished.
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