The Life and Deaths of Frankie D.

Written by Colleen Nelson
Review by John Kachuba

Frankie lives the life of a teenage outcast, someone who finds it difficult to trust others. And why not? Born with a rare medical condition that renders her skin scaly and fishlike, she hides beneath layers of goth black and heavy makeup. Found in an alley when she was just a child, Frankie has no memory of who she was or where she came from. After two horrendous foster homes, she finds shelter with Kris, a child-trauma counselor who first handled her case.

Frankie slowly begins to build a new life with Kris, but a series of disturbing dreams featuring a circus ringmaster named Monsieur Duval and a performer called Alligator Girl from a hundred years ago make her question reality, especially when she meets Monsieur Duval in person. The dream-drama continues to unfold nightly as it tells the story of Alligator Girl and Frankie starts to think she is connected to the girl in some way.

Max is a mysterious loner, the new kid in school who, like Frankie, is friendless. Frankie is stunned to find that Max is also dreaming of Monsieur Duval and together they resolve to find out what is real and what is not and why they have been drawn into this strange dream-world.

Author Nelson has created an intriguing and original story that touches not only on the play between the supernatural and reality, but also connects with real-life issues of young people, especially issues of trust, fitting in, and finding friendships. This novel is highly recommended.