The writing is exceptional. Pavarti Tyler brings the main character, Chelle, a thirteen year old girl from a dysfunctional family, who turns fourteen during the book, to life in this disturbing novel told from her point of view. She bares her soul in this book, and I really felt for her as she struggled to navigate an existence that no one would wish on any teenage girl, yet is undeniably real for some. This is not a book for the faint-hearted. It deals with complex, tough, even taboo subjects, and it does so extremely realistically. Chelle makes some bad choices, but from her viewpoint, her emotional outlook and need, they make sense in a rather disturbing way. That made White Chalk a compelling read, and a story and character I won’t ever forget.
The other characters in the book are also well-portrayed, and as the story is from Chelle’s point of view, the reader must wonder at their motivations. Some of them take advantage of her; some seem to want to befriend and help her. It all adds to Chelle’s emotional confusion and self-doubt, and to my experience as a reader, because I had strong feelings about some of them.
I do not want to add any detail of the plot because that would spoil the story. White Chalk is for readers who want to be challenged emotionally and idealistically, mesmerized by great writing and a unforgettable characters, and be drawn deeply into a disturbed teenage girl’s life as it falls apart around her. I highly recommend it.
Review by Kevin Berry.