Massive thank you to Millie Seaward from Little Brown Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for ‘This Child of Ours’ by Sadie Pearse. I am delighted to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on this thought provoking book – here is my review:
You know what’s best for your child.
Riley Pieterson is an adventurous girl with lots of questions. There’s plenty she doesn’t know yet; what a human brain looks like. All the constellations in the night sky. Why others can’t see her the way she sees herself.
When Riley confides in her parents – Sally and Theo – that she feels uncomfortable in her own skin, a chain of events begins that changes their lives forever. Sally wants to support her daughter by helping her be who she dreams of being. Theo resists; he thinks Riley is a seven-year-old child pushing boundaries. Both believe theirs is the only way to protect Riley and keep her safe.
With the wellbeing of their child at stake, Sally and Theo’s relationship is pushed to breaking point. To save their family, each of them must look deeply at who they really are.
What does TWG think?
‘This Child of Ours’ is an incredibly eye-opening and poignant novel which delves deeply into the topic of being comfortable in your own skin. Whilst the media reports on males and females being uncomfortable in the skin that they were born in, especially in the New Year, it is incredibly rare and often seen as ‘taboo’ if the media reports on a child not feeling right in the body that they were given. I’ve seen people say ‘how does a child know that they’re in the wrong body?’, and to be brutally honest, before I read ‘This Child of Ours’, I asked the same sort of question. Did Sadie Pearse’s majestic and beautifully written story enlighten me? Of course it did! Did it help me understand that just because we are born one way, it doesn’t mean it’s the RIGHT way? Honestly? Yes AND no. Now that isn’t me choosing to be ignorant about the subject, not at all. In fact, weirdly enough, it’s the complete opposite.
Riley bravely admits to her parents that she isn’t comfortable being a little girl. Her parents, her father especially, can’t help but think that it’s a ‘phase’, as though she’s decided she no longer wants to play with My Little Pony toys and wishes to play with Shopkins toys instead. But is it that simple? How do you know that your seven-year old isn’t just wanting to try a new thing? How do you KNOW that when your child comes to tell you that being a girl has her devastated, that she isn’t merely ‘throwing her teddies out of the pram’. She’s seven. But then on the other side of the coin, how can you brush something like that aside? Likening it to a phase that she will ‘grow out of’? Children put their trust in their parents to do right by them. They expect their parents to be on their side no matter what. ‘This Child of Ours’ highlights the importance of having someone on your side. Having someone to sit there and say ‘I believe you’. In this case, that person is Riley’s mum, Sally. Her dad on the other hand, Theo, is struggling to digest what his little girl has told him. Can you blame him? No, not really. But could I blame his actions further on in the story? Yes, I could. I know I shouldn’t judge a situation that I’m not in myself, and I guess I’m not really doing that, however I found the way that Theo reacted highly emotional. I couldn’t understand why he chose to do what he did, especially as he didn’t stop to think about how his choices would affect his daughter. Being a parent is difficult. We are often stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea when it comes to conflicting emotions between ourselves and our loved ones – but when a child is concerned, surely the adult has to be the bigger person? The child is looking for direction, is it fair if the adult palms off their concerns like it’s an odd job to fix on a Saturday morning after the football?
I could see where Theo was coming from – what Riley came out with IS a big deal, and her age was a big thing in the situation. I could understand his upset, confusion, and uncertainty about the future. However, I couldn’t help but feel angry with the way he was pointing the finger. It was heartbreaking to watch his daughter battle with her own, confusing emotions, as well as watching her father react to them in such a cutthroat manner. As for Sally, I felt that her approach was more level as she tried to find solutions to ensure her daughter’s happiness was their number one priority. Sally was confused by the situation, but she dealt with that by finding people to speak to and not by unintentionally blaming her daughter for something she couldn’t control.
I will be honest and say that I don’t understand how a young child can say that they wish to be a different gender to the one that they were born. I won’t go as far to say that I mirrored Theo in his views, because I don’t and didn’t. I just don’t understand. Maybe if I was in that situation myself my outlook would be different. I’m not saying that children CAN’T feel that way, because it’s clear that they can.
I thought that Sadie Pearse’s storytelling was incredibly honest and thought-provoking, both emotionally and mentally. Pearse has looked at the topic from every angle, incorporating multiple, real reactions to the subject in her story, highlighting the fact that yes, a lot of people are going to view things differently where something like this is concerned. I am glad that the author chose to tell the story from both a positive and negative viewpoint as its realistic. Not everyone is going to throw a party to celebrate the lifestyle change, and not everyone is going to feel as though their lives are being torn apart. ‘This Child of Ours’ explores the true reality of admitting to yourself that you aren’t comfortable in your own skin, alongside the true reality of just how people, even loved ones, can react to an admission like that.
I didn’t know what to expect before I started reading ‘This Child of Ours’, but I can honestly say that now, having read and digested the storyline, my life feels enriched by the beautiful story I was able to read. I had the chance to delve into a situation I couldn’t understand, in turn finding my eyes opening widely to the black and white notions of each character in the story. I may still struggle to understand the bigger picture, but the fact that I can empathise emotionally with the situation just goes to show how much of an impact this story has had on me.
A beautifully told, enriching, emotional and thought-provoking story which will stay in my heart for a very long time to come.