The Gaps


Reading Leanne Hall's superb young adult novel, The Gaps, was a multi-layered experience for me. Set in a girls' private school, Balmoral, The Gaps explores the effect of the abduction of one of the students, Yin Marshall, on two of her classmates, popular Natalia (who used to be Yin's best friend) and newcomer Chloe.

The Gaps is sensitive and nuanced, tracing the ripples of Yin's abduction on the school community, the survivor guilt, the pain of uncertainty, the prurient horror, and the trauma of loss. Hall is especially good at sketching in the wider social background through which these teenage girls move -- the white noise of stranger danger, unsolicited male attention, body policing, social media pressure, advertising. Chloe and Natalia are two very different characters but their responses to Yin's disappearance are truthful and powerful. 

The extra layers for me came from the fact that Leanne Hall and I went to the same school (a few years apart), and the geography of 'Balmoral' was intimately familiar to me -- the quadrangle, the walkways, the bathrooms near the science labs, the Great Hall. (In fact, my house was called Balmoral...) And our school did experience a tragic abduction some years after my time. Even though I'd left the school and didn't know anyone involved, I did feel a particular stab of horror and protectiveness around that event  just because we'd worn the same school uniform. 

Maybe that awareness gave The Gaps an added depth for me, but even without that shared background, this is a very accomplished, layered and heartfelt novel, perfectly pitched and perfectly timed. Highly recommended.

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