The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

So this is my review of the Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi. I read this a while ago, and I don’t know that I should review it, but I’m trying to review all the books I’ve read, so it’ll just be a short one.

This is about an eight-year-old girl named Jess. She lives in England with her English father and Nigerian mother. She has an incredible imagination and it makes it hard for her to fit in at school. Her teachers don’t really know how to deal with her, and her parents disagree on how they should help her. Then they go to Nigeria for their holiday and Jess meets a little girl called TillyTilly. Suddenly Jess feels like she fits in somewhere and has a friend. Then Tilly’s visits start getting dark, and Tilly starts to scare Jess, and Jess realizes she doesn’t really know Tilly at all.

As I mentioned it’s been a while since I read this, but I do remember liking it. The ending annoyed me a little, but meh, it was okay.

I really liked the sort of folklore overtones, and it made it feel a bit like a fairytale. I really liked old folklore and fairytale, so I really enjoyed that aspect of it.

I also enjoyed how it was written about Jess. It seems like Jess clearly has some pretty severe anxiety issues, and her mother seems to think that seeing a therapist won’t help, that they can fix her through family and stuff, which is… not helping. They also seem to… sort of ignore Jess, or at least, not take her anxiety seriously, assume she’s lying, overreacting or revving up her anxiety, which is awful.

I found TillyTilly fascinating. She’s… I’m not sure if she’s a real person, or just this imaginary friend that Jess has made up. She’s also kind of scary in the way that only children can make someone scary. She’s so violent and possessive and cruel. And she’s scary in the way that children will find someone scary, because Jess has no control over her, which is fascinating. And I also find that scary, because in many ways Tilly represents Jess’ anxiety, and like she can’t control Tilly she can’t control her anxiety either.

The stronger Jess becomes, and the more “normal” she becomes, the more violent TillyTilly’s reactions become. She wants Jess to herself and punishes Jess and her friends and family. It’s really creepy.

Oyeyemi was like 17 when she wrote this book, and while I think it was good, and I am impressed with what she’s created I think it’s also clear that Oyeyemi was quite young when she wrote it. I don’t think I can point to anything specific that made me feel this way. It’s just that Jess seems a bit too precocious and clever for an eight-year-old.


I liked it. I thought it was interesting, and I’m definitely excited to read more of Oyeyemi’s books.