Olivia Ellis is your average eleven-year-old girl. All she wants in life is to get her ears pierced (like practically everyone else in her year level at school), for her parents to stop treating her like a child, and for cute Ben to notice her and ask her out. All minor things, it would seem, but very important to a pre-teen girl who just wants her peers to see her as the cool girl she knows she can be.
When her mum thwarts her plans to get her ears done, and embarrasses her in front of everyone, Liv is furious- how could her mother be so uncool? But then, in a complete turn-around from her usual behaviour, Liv’s mum offers a compromise. Suddenly, everything is changing. Liv’s mum suddenly begins to show her things that she considers important (life lessons, if you will) - like how to make spaghetti Bolognese, and how to put on makeup properly. She gives Liv her old diaries from when she was a teenager (to demonstrate that most young kids experience the same things in life), and takes her on shopping trips, buying her clothes that she can grow into. But there’s a downside to all this positive bonding. Liv’s mum seems to be tired all the time, and, looking back at some of the photos she has taken, Liv can see that her mother’s weight has dropped dramatically. It’s not long before it becomes apparent that something is wrong- her mother is trying to fit as much time in with her daughter as she can, before she’s no longer around to do it.
With her worst fears eventually confirmed, Liv struggles to deal with the terrible news. It doesn’t help that her older brother Isaac (who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and has no real concept of reality) is almost oblivious to the inevitability of what is happening. Liv’s father, who is also struggling to cope, tries to encourage Liv to use her passion for photography to create happy memories, but this is easier said than done. Time is ticking away, and before long, it will take Liv’s mum with it…
This novel deals beautifully with issues of grief, especially from the perspective of a young person. Liv’s emotions seem so real- from her blissful ignorance at the beginning (where she vents her anger and frustrations), to her awareness and then reluctant acceptance. Starting the novel as she does (before Liv or the reader are aware of what will eventuate), and then ending it six months after the fact, means that the author allows readers to see the full scope of Liv’s experience- we get the chance to see how her mother’s cancer changes her over time. Liv’s relationships and experiences are shaped by what she goes through, and readers will also learn valuable lessons about life as they follow her story. Aimed at a slightly younger audience than other books of this genre, Dandelion Clocks is nonetheless engaging, leaving you with a lump in your throat at times. This is an important novel for young people to read, especially if they, too, are going through a difficult time- it allows them to see that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and that everyone has different ways of coping with their loss.