Becoming Dinah by Kit de Waal

Becoming Dinah is a YA novel that takes the story of Moby Dick and turns it into one about a teenage girl running away from her unusual upbringing and the mistakes she’s made. Dinah is seventeen and grew up in a commune. She shaves off her hair, packs a bag, and is about to try and hitch her way south when she is persuaded by Ahab, a grumpy man with one leg also from the commune, to illegally drive a VW campervan on a quest for him. As they travel, she reflects on what she is running from and tries to work out if it is really the right course for her.

This is a touching and powerful novel that requires no knowledge of Moby Dick, though it may then inspire people to read the original. The narrative is carefully revealed and the novel leaves a lot unspoken or not discussed until near the end, so the reader is also on a quest, to find out why Dinah is running away. Despite the commune upbringing, there are a lot of relatable parts to Dinah’s story as it touches on topics such as families splitting up, sexuality, and feeling like an outsider.

Moby Dick may seem like an unusual choice for a YA modern reworking, but actually it allows themes of obsession and freedom to be explored through the eyes of a memorable protagonist.