A powerful rollercoaster, Cathy Harris
Sylvie The Second
Sylvie is invisible. Or, she may as well be. After Sylvie’s mess of an older sister attempts to overdose for “the kabillionth time”, it sets Sylvie’s family off into an explosive cycle, which persistently wears away her tolerance. Sick of being overshadowed by Calamity-Cate and her desperate actions, Sylvie decides to make some changes to her life: clothing, hair, personality. An obvious plea for attention, she makes drastic changes to her appearance. And though this doesn’t grasp the attention of her distraught mother, nor her dramatic father, it does attract interest from some unknown characters: Chris, the stereotypical popular jock, and Adam Allegro, the pizza delivery guy with the electric eyes.
When Chris invites her to a high school party, she has no idea what to expect. Do all parties have drinking? Slutty dresses? Do all college parties involve drunken boys who force themselves upon you? Despite all of her own instincts, her new popular “friends” encourage her to follow Chris up to the bedroom. But after she finds herself screaming out for help, she knows what Chris is doing is both non-consensual and not right. Ashamed, angry and afraid, her only confidante is Bookish Belle, the only person who cares about her.
Sylvie finds she’s been made a joke of. Sylvie the Second, the Shadow, a girl that tried her best to fit in, tried too hard. And Sylvie the Slut grew from her mistake.
Sylvie caves in on herself, a barely living mess. She begins to find resolve in only two things: ordering pizza so she’d have a chance at seeing Adam, and self-harm. Her parents distance themselves from her even further, not noticing or caring as far as she’s aware. Sylvie reaches her lowest point, where Belle finally pulls her out. Through Planned Parenthood and counselling, Sylvie has to share about her sexual assault, her family troubles, and all her pent up emotions, so she can make amends with Calamity-Cate, with her family, with herself.
Sylvie the Second is a rollercoaster book about a young teenage girl who struggles with several issues around her that affect her deeply. It is a powerful book about knowing that it’s okay to reach out for help, and that it will always be provided. Unfortunately in my opinion, though, this wasn’t portrayed particularly well. Sylvie is a strong character whom I did enjoy, and the plot was hard-hitting and well thought out. But the actual way in which the story played out felt relatively unenthused and a touch lazy. Scenes blurred a bit and the ending came in a bit of a rush. The ending of the book, though a touch clichéd, was heart-warming, and provided an optimistic finale to a more somber and dark story.
Overall, Sylvie the Second is an interesting story with compelling characters. It has strong morals that carry through and reach out to the reader. I would recommend this book to someone who’s looking for an intense storyline, but without a challenging read.
It is a young adult book, so teenage students would most likely find it interesting. I would like to advise that this book does contain self-harm and sexual assault, and could be triggering to some readers. The book doesn’t provide any warning, and does speak graphically about both these topics.
Cathy Harris is 14 years old.