The Voice Inside My Head (2014), by S.J. Laidlaw

This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 19.4.

Laidlaw-VoiceAs an avid reader of mysteries, I was delighted to discover that S.J. Laidlaw’s The Voice Inside my Head presents as sophisticated a construction of suspense as many “adult” mystery novels. The only obvious distinction is that the protagonist of The Voice Inside my Head is a teen. This is as it should be: Laidlaw in no way writes down to her audience, and adolescent and adult readers alike will engaged with the complex web of characters and events that constitute her novel.

Seventeen-year-old Luke Carrington, whose sister Pat has been reported missing and presumed dead on the small Honduras island of Utila, refuses to believe that she is dead. He hears her voice telling him to seek her out, to come find her. Breaking away from parental bonds, he travels to Honduras to discover for himself what has happened to her. The relationships he builds with the islanders as well as the diving and research community on the island form the backdrop for his investigations. All the while, Pat gives him guidance even as he discovers how little he really knew his older sister, the responsible loving “mother” their own mother has never been.

The people who know Pat (or Tricia as she is known in the Utila community) create a welcoming if confusing circle who support Luke’s endeavours at the same time as they doubt the possibility of his success. Zach, who “worships” the “Holy Trinity… diving, drinking and drugs, my man!” (15), claims to have been Pat’s best friend, and latches onto Luke. Seemingly a dubious advantage at first, Zack’s friendship proves invaluable to Luke in his search for both his sister, and an understanding of himself and relationship to his family. Like Pat, Luke comes to appreciate the islanders and their home more than he thought possible. In exploring the world Pat ran away from home to find, Luke manages to find a way to return to his family with a more secure sense of self, and answers to many of the questions he left with.

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