Mandy Hager is well known for tackling issues that might be deemed controversial or sensitive – teenage alcoholism; cults and sexual exploitation – but I think this book covers some of the most difficult subject matter that she has tackled so far.
Dear Vincent deals with a family struggling to survive after the harrowing loss of a daughter in incredibly distressing circumstances. Underlying issues of dysfunctional family relationships and generations of sectarian violence create an incredibly dense and emotionally draining backdrop to the narrative.
Tara, the main character, escapes into her world of art, especially that of Vincent van Gogh, to deal with the tragedies that affect her life.
Don’t be put off, the book does have a very positive message.
I really respect Mandy Hager for taking on such subject matter – the author’s notes at the end discuss her own personal tragedy and loss. However because of the content, I would see this as a book for more senior students.