Meet 12 year old Delilah Dark – who dresses in black, lives on Marmite and black coffee, and sleeps in a black room with her snake and a crystal ball. Her mother ran away when she was small, her father is a billionaire businessman who’s always working, and her stepmother is a shopaholic whose dream is a visa card with an infinite credit limit.
Delilah is a psychic who can see into the future – but not always the bits she wants to find out about. She can also see the ghost of her sister Bel, who died from anorexia a couple of years earlier. Blaming the peer pressure of their exclusive private school, their father has taken Delilah away and she is now being home-schooled by a series of boring tutors she’s become very good at getting rid of. Bel’s ghost has become Delilah’s only friend. She is bored, lonely, and very, very prickly. One of her nicknames is ‘Gloom-Girl’.
But then, one day, a new tutor arrives called Rainbow Lark. Rainbow is a middle-aged wild-child with a very strange attitude to education. Before she can resist, Delilah is recruited into SKIVE – a network of groups of talented kids with special powers. Delilah’s group meet at The Farm, and there are four of them altogether, from very different backgrounds. Polly – a sports fanatic whose mother wants to turn her into Einstein, has the power to make objects move and shatter; Brandon, spoilt from birth, can draw things to him simply by the magnetism of his ego; Will, in and out of care homes all his life, can read minds. The Farm is organised by Mike – an old hippy with a Woodstock T-shirt and a 60s record collection, Naomi, a young eco-journalist, and Rainbow Lark herself. Under their tutelage, the children are to be trained to take on the evil empire of Big Corp – which seems bent on establishing a culture of consumerist greed that will make the company rich and destroy the world.
Delilah’s talent for being able to see into the future becomes vitally important when their first task is to foil the ambitions of Burgerlicious (one of its slogans is ‘Half a Cow – Now!’) and prevent the mass hypnosis of the entire population by subliminal advertising which compels them to consume, consume, consume. There are riots in shopping malls and an epidemic of obesity. Delilah’s step-mother arrives home with pantechnicons of clothes and goods she doesn’t need, and Delilah finds a gruesome object in the fridge. Sacks of strange red envelopes keep arriving at the front door and the butler is behaving strangely.
Delilah discovers that her step-mother has signed up for a Faust Card to pay off her credit card debts and is having a secret affair. Life gets even more complicated when Delilah discovers who her father really is. Then, in the crystal ball, she sees Rainbow Lark in danger of losing her life. Suddenly Delilah finds herself in a very difficult place indeed and she will need all the support of her friends to find her way out.
This is an amazingly inventive novel, with a cast of weird (and wonderful!) characters who take the story from comedy to tragedy and back again at the turn of a page. I did wonder though, whether one aspect of the plot was a little heavy for such young readers – some parents may query the morality of the group planning to kill one of the ‘baddies’. But the plot never flags, which is what you’d expect from a writer of this calibre. Evie Glass is actually the poet Clare Pollard in another life, with a string of award-winning books.
Delilah herself is a fantastic heroine with just the right amount of cynicism and teenage angst. A kind of Tracy Beaker with money. Except that Delilah doesn’t want to spend any of her father’s billions and is committed to saving the planet with her new found friends. This, I suspect is the first of many adventures for Delilah.
Reviewed by Kathleen Jones
The Discoveries of Deliah Dark is available in Kindle format here