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Friday, September 28, 2012

'Creepy and Maud' by Dianne Touchell

 Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

Hilarious and heartbreaking, Creepy & Maud charts the relationship between two social misfits, played out in the space between their windows.

Creepy is a boy who watches from the shadows keenly observing and caustically commentating on human folly.

Maud is less certain. A confused girl with a condition that embarrasses her parents and assures her isolation.

Together Creepy and Maud discover something outside their own vulnerability — each other’s. But life is arbitrary; and loving someone doesn’t mean you can save them.

Creepy & Maud is a blackly funny and moving first novel that says; ‘You’re ok to be as screwed up as you think you are and you’re not alone in that.’


Creepy and Maud are neighbours and on the outskirts, of everything.

So, they watch everything.

They watch their parents like they’re observing a particularly gruesome animal documentary. Creepy watches them yell blue murder at one another; he monitors the half-empty glasses of wine his mum stores around the house, and he quietly observes his dad training their dog, Dobie Squires, to attack his wife with a yelled “Gitah!” (get her). Maud watches her quiet mother, her mother who never cries. She sees her father lurking around the house, seeking out her mother’s cat to kick.

Creepy watches the people at school. He notices how the clique of beautiful girls are currently obsessed with Pandora bracelets, wrapping all their hopes and dreams up in tiny charms. Maud sees the shaking, sweating hands of their French teacher.

Creepy and Maud are on the outskirts, quietly watching.

And then, one day, Creepy starts watching Maud. From across the way he sees that his bedroom window looks into hers (if her curtains are open and Creepy stands a certain way and uses a pair of relic binoculars). Creepy watches Maud pulling on her hair – the hair atop her head, on her eyelashes, even the hair . . . down there. He watches Maud draw. He watches Maud’s father yell at her. He watches Maud being . . . Maud. And Creepy falls in love.

So he holds a note up to his window for her to see . . .

. . . And then Maud starts watching Creepy right back.

‘Creepy and Maud’ is the debut young adult novel from Australian author, Dianne Touchell.

Creepy and Maud take turns narrating their unfolding romance, beginning with Creepy observing the decidedly unromantic life of his parents who have not set a very good example for their young son. In fact, Creepy begins so sceptical about love that he does not like to be touched, by anybody. But then he starts observing Maud across the way, he takes note that she has Trichotillomania – enjoys pulling her hair out – and he is intrigued at her manifestation of pain. He’s also intrigued by her drawing, her cat’s eye glasses and eventually everything about her.

Creepy is Creepy partly because he’s invisible – always with his head in a book, his superior mind doesn’t leave him much room to tolerate most kids his age. He reads the classics, from Kerouac to Thomas Hardy, ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ and ‘Peter Pan’. He quotes Lewis Carroll to Maud via a written message held up to his window, inadvertently appealing to her love of five’s (five letters, five-word sentences, five syllables. . .) But he’s also Creepy because he falls in love with Maud, fast and from a distance;

All right, so I have spent a bit of time looking in there. It’s funny how when you watch someone for a while, as you learn them, you begin to feel as if they’re complicit in the observation. As if you have their permission. As if they actually feel you watching, and like it. That’s when I got careless, though. That’s when I got comfortable.
Am I sounding creepy? Love is sort of creepy.
When you fall in love, you presuppose all sorts of things about the person. You superimpose all kinds of ideals and fantasies on them. You create all manner of unrealistic, untenable, unsatisfiable criteria for that person, automatically guaranteeing their failure and your heartbreak. And what do we call it? Romance. Now, that’s creepy.

This is such a lyrical, beautiful novel about a kooky suburban love story between teenage neighbours. It’s really a very simple story, insomuch as a love story can be simple, but it’s the characters of Creepy and Maud that make this book seem rather grandiose. And it's Touchell's fresh and delicious prose that makes this novel truly unforgettable.

Creepy is a very articulate, observant young man with a dark, dark, dark sense of humour. He starts out seeing the world in such a wonderfully austere way, but he starts to slowly and subtly change when he begins watching Maud. Suddenly, all those romantic books he reads come in handy. One day he sees Maud not looking her usual gloomy self, and he describes the image thus; “With a smile like a shiver on a landscape.” Urgh! He’s gorgeous; even more so for being a little bit mysterious to both Maud and the reader.

Creepy falling for Maud is a little bit of a miracle, considering the romantic role models his parent’s aren’t. So when he does fall, it’s a little bit spectacular;

And I wonder what would happen if we touched each other. Would we repulse each other like charged magnets held south to south, or would we short each other out and curl together like the knuckles of bone in the spine of a sleeping cat?

Maud is equally fascinating. She doesn’t think she’s as articulate as Creepy, or as smart (what with all those books he reads). Maud understands the world through drawing, her grandma and the sweet sensation of ‘pulling’. She yearns for a real friend, but doesn’t know how to get one. And she thinks Creepy’s parents love each other, since they still have enough passion to yell at one another. Each of her chapters ends with a Coda – the sum of her thoughts that reveal Maud is a lot smarter than anybody gives her credit for;

Coda: I wait for the light to fascinate me.

‘Creepy and Maud’ is a disarmingly wonderful novel. It’s funny, dark and weird; a neighbourly love story across the ways that contrasts the horrors of suburban family values with the seismic tremors of first love. Creepy is severely witty, and Maud a fascinatingly complex young woman. Dianne Touchell is most certainly a sharp new voice to look out for on the Australian YA scene.

5/5

2 comments:

  1. I've never heard of this book (Fremantle Press seem to publish some great Aussie YA!) but I love the idea of these two kids being there for each other

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    1. I completely stumbled across it and was drawn in by the title. But it is SO. BLOODY. GOOD! Fremantle Press are definitely one to always have on the radar ;)

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