By Colleen Nelson
Recommend? yes! Buy or borrow? buy!
“‘I had people in my life who cared about me. And my skin — well, in an unexpected way, my skin had saved my life. I was healing.”Colleen Nelson – The Life and Deaths of Frankie D.
Could a hundred-year-old circus sideshow be the key to Frankie’s mysterious past?
Seventeen-year old Frankie doesn’t trust easily. Not others, and not even herself. Found in an alley when she was a child, she has no memory of who she is, or why she was left there. Recurring dreams about a hundred-year-old carnival sideshow, a performer known as Alligator Girl, and a man named Monsieur Duval have an eerie familiarity to them.
Frankie gets drawn deeper into Alligator Girl’s world, and the secrets that kept the performers bound together. But a startling encounter with Monsieur Duval when she’s awake makes Frankie wonder what’s real and what’s in her head.
As Frankie’s and Alligator Girl’s stories unfold, Frankie’s life takes a sharp twist. Are the dreams her way of working through her trauma, or is there a more sinister plan at work? And if there is, does she have the strength to fight it?
First and foremost, I would like to give a huge thank you Dundurn Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Spoiler for the review you’re about to read — I really enjoyed it!
Where do I begin? This story was about so much more than a circus (although I really liked the setting), at the root it’s a story about family and belonging. The relationships and situations of the past involving the chosen family of the circus members help Frannie through her own journey of belonging and self-discovery.
I think there’s something about Frannie’s character that is relatable for everyone out there, regardless of whether you’re a teenager or have surpassed your teenage years. She struggles with insecurity and judgement surrounding her skin, — her situation, a skin condition called ichthyosis vulgaris — the way she chooses to cover it, and all other trials and tribulations that come with being a teenager. With the help and guidance from her foster mom, an unlikely new-found friend, Jessica, and other important figures, Frannie comes to see that the world isn’t such an awful place, and that there are people who genuinely care for her.
One of my favourite relationships is the one between Frannie and her foster mom. Frannie makes it pretty clear that she hasn’t had an ideal childhood in terms of her living situations, as she’s been in her fair share of foster homes. The bond that she has with Kris is truly something special and it warmed my heart so much to see them navigate the world together.
I will say, learning about Monsieur Duval, Alligator girl, and the rest of the circus crew through the lens of Frannie’s dreams was really cool! I had absolutely no idea how or why it was happening, so when I was genuinely surprised. I had no idea how everything would wrap up in the end — I LOVE when I can’t figure it out — and I must say, I think it was done very, very, well. I also liked that the links between Egyptian mythology and everything that happened to the circus members.
Another thing that I really liked was that the author tackled some pretty heavy issues — assault, consent, foster care system — in, what I thought, an amazing way. Jessica and Frannie even begin to understand one another, because although they don’t necessarily have shared experiences, they are both battling with their own trauma, which they help one another through. I seriously love the friendship between the two of them, in case you can’t tell!
Overall, I really enjoyed the story, I do however wish that we knew a little more about some of the other members of the circus show. There’s so much more I could say, but I would probably start spoiling the book for you all, so if I haven’t caught your attention yet, I’ll leave you with this: there’s a little magic, a little mythology, and a lot of familial themes, it’s the perfect combination!
This book is now out into the world, I definitely suggest you snag a copy — and bonus, the author is Canadian!
Be sure to check out some more thoughts and reviews on Frankie D. from the other amazing Book Bloggers who took part in this tour!