The 10 P.M. Question is a wonderful study in opposites. At just 12 years old, Frankie Parsons has an idyllic kid’s life: great best friend, amazing pet cat and more cake than one boy can reasonably eat alone. He’s also saddled with responsibilities to his eccentric family that most grownups would juggle with difficulty, and a whopping anxiety disorder weighting his shoulders. Has the cat given the whole family worms? Did everyone get their flu shot? Every bug bite holds the potential to blossom into full-blown cancer in his overactive imagination. At 10 p.m. each night he visits with his mother in bed, and she helps to dispel his anxieties . . . but she may be at the root of them, too.

When a new girl comes to Frankie’s school, she immediately adds to his list of things to worry about. Sydney asks questions that blow the lid off Frankie’s highly ordered universe and force him to begin taking care of himself, but she’s not without her own issues and complications.

Kate De Goldi has created a lush, loving world in The 10 P.M. Question. From the fat aunties to the even fatter cat, a father called “Uncle” and best friend Gigs, it’s just a pleasure to spend time in the family home with its attendant, and obviously affectionate, chaos. For a kid with too much on his mind, Frankie is at least in good and supportive hands when things come to a head.

An additional treat for this reader was the book’s New Zealand setting. The unfamiliar landmarks and subtle cultural differences just add another layer of lushness to the backdrop, a fourth auntie in the family, as it were. After Frankie has what his sister calls a “nut-out,” we see that a happy ending isn’t possible for everyone in the story, and that to settle for contentment sometimes must suffice. But the family pulls together in the wake of the crisis, and there’s great hope in this story of one boy slowly conquering his fears.

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