'I was split in two.
I was English but I wasn't.
I was Cambodian but I wasn't.
I was in this family but I wasn't really part of the family.
And now my heart was hacked in half as well.'
Emma Shevah's novel, Dara Palmer's Major Drama is an addictive read, perfectly pitched at readers 9+.
Dara is a vibrant, drama loving 11 year old. She is convinced she will get the lead part in the school's play ... because 'I was great at acting.'
When Dara and her friend Lacy don't get the parts they were hoping for, despite being able to 'do' a whole myriad of faces, they are shocked beyond words.
'My intestines were in a knot and my throat was clamped so tightly that I couldn't even answer.'
Emma Shevah's flawless narrative sets Dara on the path of discovery, not only about drama and friendships, but about her adoption. Dara is originally from Cambodia, her parents (who also adopted her sister from Russia) are open, frank and honest with Dara throughout yet she has self discoveries to make, connections to form ... starting first and foremost with the little sister she always, ALWAYS argues with.
There's a touch of the brilliance of Judy Blume in Shevah's writing, due to her ability to really get in the mind set of a young person. The illustrations from Helen Crawford-White successfully echoes the novel's journal tone.
Dara Palmer's Major Drama's winning streak is its approach to true life issues whilst maintaining a light hearted, addictive style which adds to - rather than diminishes - the story's core.