The Flask ISBN: 9780007438761
Published by HarperCollins Children's Books, 2012
In this lyrical and deeply spiritual book, we meet Jess, a young girl of about 12, who has just lost her dearly-loved Great Aunt Edie. They have shared a bond, a 'connection' Jess would say, in their music. Their piano playing is almost other-worldly in their approach to it. Jess's mother and her stepfather Si are expecting twins, and it is not until the end of chapter 9 that we discover the twins are conjoined, and that Jess and her parents are deeply concerned about them. Jess has heard all the statistics, and they are not good. Things are going wrong in Jess's relationship with her best friend Zoe too, who has developed an unnerving tendency to like boys, something Jess is not ready for. There are so many layers to this story, at least one of them being supernatural. When Jess finds an old blue glass flask in the drawer of a desk she has inherited from Edie, she senses a presence living in the flask. What it is, she doesn't understand, but it is alive and seems to be somehow connected to the weaker of the twins who has problems soon after the babies are born. When it is discovered that Richie and Clem share a liver and that parting them is going to be dangerous, Jess has a sort of breakdown and it is Zoe who comes to the rescue. She is the one who realises that Jess has some unusual talents, not just the piano playing, but also her ability to understand the un-understandable. While the soul in the flask (for such it is) may be difficult for some children to take, the lyrical beauty of the writing, and the desire one has for all to come well, makes this hard to put down. Budhism comes into the story, as does jealousy, and the importance of connectiveness - the connection between the babies, the connection between Jess and Edie, between Jess and Zoe and between Jess and her Grandmother. Ultimately, it is the connection between the soul in the flask and the weaker of the twins that makes all the difference. Strong stuff, but wonderfully written.