The Tulip Touch
London, Penguin, 1997, 168p
The Year 7s are currently reading this in their English lessons, and although I am pretty sure I read it when I was at school, I cannot remember it at all - a little like Room 13.
The Tulip Touch is a Gothic horror about a troublesome friendship between Natalie and Tulip. Written from the viewpoint of Natalie, the story tells of how a innocent friendship turns dark, as Tulip reveals her naughty side as the girls became closer. Tulip lies, controls and deceives. She leads Natalie into trouble - first it is just little things - the girls giggling behind their hands - but it develops into acts of theft and arson.
The novel is distinctly Gothic, with death pervading through the story. Tulip is described as witch-like, enchanting Natalie against her will. Eventually, Natalie pushes away from Tulip, taking back control over her life, getting back on track at school; but, there are dark consequences of abandoning her old friend.
You sympathise initially with Natalie because you read about her experience of the friendship. But you also grow to understand Tulip. Her behaviour is linked to her upbringing - she lives with an abusive father and a mother unwilling or unable to protect her. Although Natalie is relieved to be free of her, she does not regret the time they had together.
Many young people have had good relationships turn bad, and Anne Fine has accurately portrayed the difficulty of such a situation. She explores the fear felt by young girls who are trapped by that desire to be included. Natalie is constantly asking herself why she didn't back out sooner. This is a timeless story, a rite of passage for teenage girls, portrayed through a sinister friendship.