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Book Review: Goth Girl by Chris Riddell


Famed illustrator, Chris Riddell strikes out a new creative path with his series 'Goth girl'. Drawing from the experience of a lengthy career working alongside authors, his latest endeavour reinvents classic children's literature; 'Goth girl' is a hopelessly sweet series depicting the adventures of a young lady through the gaudily gothic narrative of her father's obscure mansion. Bringing this generation's attention back to 19th-century literature. Riddell's series plays around with romanticised themes of the Gothic novel; Deviating from the cliché trope of a young maiden falling prey to the dark and dangerous, we see this maiden break the archetypes, and bring a refreshing light to the shadowy catacombs of potential disaster.

Not only does this series fuel daydreams and fire up the imagination, there are important concepts that can be found throughout; from coping with grief, to classist segregation, emotional suppression and childhood alienation. The protagonist, Ava Goth, embodies a framework for emotional health and stability in children, under the veils of romantically ghoulish story-telling, one can see a guiding hand that helps young readers grow and develop.

On the surface, the references and whimsy may seem almost clumsy; With randomised quirks for characters to almost unfitting mythological encounters, it appears as an unorganised melting pot of sporadic ideas. However there is a careful structure to this; in the eyes of a child, this comes across as a fantastical daydream, these seemingly chaotic themes work in tandem with the equally chaotic melody of an undeveloped mind. A complete submergence of fantasy with underlying gateways to canonical literature that provide psychological growth.

It presents its lessons, cautions and substance in a format that optimally appeals to children, and in a way that they can engage with and understand. From the introduction of canonical literature to the nonchalant converses with death, the fantasy frameworks for both issues presented and educational references are ideally structured to suit the intensely random and free flowing minds of children. Riddell uses this book as a way of easing these adult and advanced concepts into their worlds, as an inevitable lesson.

Not only does the series ideally shape itself in accordance with child-like whimsy, it subtly invites the curiosity into classic literature, with references to Wuthering heights, Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Jane Austin and many more. As with iconic predecessors, whether it's a lesson in language, a cultivation of vocabulary or developing intrigue into the literary arts, 'Goth girl' hits the mark of cultural prestige and places itself as a front-runner for the perfect children's book. Riddell achieves this with the reinvention of classic literature, the psychological benefits for growing minds and the beautifully evocative illustrations portrayed with both language and art.

Children's literature is inarguably a difficult undertaking, perhaps more so than the creation of any other genre; for its audience is easily suggestible to concepts and ideas that could shape them for life.  Accordingly, an added sense of responsibility comes with the job, upon reviewing Chris Riddell's 'Goth girl' I have found that such a responsibility was not taken lightly, nor was the job done poorly.  Not only is the series an entertaining read, it's an important one, with an author that evidently cares deeply about their audience.


Riddell, Chris. Goth Girl And The Fete Worse Than Death. London: Macmillan Children's, 2014. Print.

Riddell, Chris. Goth Girl And The Ghost Of A Mouse. Print.

Riddell, Chris. Goth Girl And The Pirate Queen. Print.

Riddell, Chris. Goth Girl And The Wuthering Fright. Print.

Written by Jennifer Richards

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