reviews 14+Secondary/Adult continued

for her is too much of a burden on the family nurse. It seems this carer, Nurse Budd, achieves some success in caring for Beth. But it emerges only gradually at what alarming price this progress is achieved. We know very well that Wilson has

the ability to construct a convincing portrait of a family life, into which she injects with her usual skill a couple of serious crises. On this occasion she also explores how the Victorians responded to a problem of mental health which is taxing enough even in a more enlightened age. Beth’s health problems and Budd’s misguided attempts

to deal with them are

depicted with chilling precision. Wilson is expert at conjuring up dark villains. Nurse Budd is a strong candidate to be the most villainous of them all. Sharratt’s illustrations work in the usual close and powerful harmony with Wilson’s text. Theirs is indeed a partnership to be treasured. RB


Juno Dawson, Quercus, 400pp, 978-1-786-54036-2, &.99 pbk

Alexandra Volkov, known as Lexi, is a seventeen year old of Russian origin who leads a privileged life in Britain. She has access to plenty of money. She has a brother who looks out for her after a fashion. She has a father who is mostly absent working and a mother who is absorbed in developing her relationship with a new partner. Her

lack of effective

novel Junk, the challenge of alerting young readers to the reality of a world they may be tempted to enter. It is a noble cause and one never more needing to be taken up than today. To the librarians of senior schools, the message is clear: order this book and ask your teacher colleagues to talk it through with the pupils. RB

Truly Wildly Deeply HHHH

Jenny McLachlan, Bloomsbury, 128pp, 978-1408879740, £7.99 pbk

Truly Wildly Deeply is a sparky, funny romance by one of our best writers for teens, starring a heroine everyone will love and admire. Annie is starting sixth form college

with a mixture of nerves and a determination to get the most out of it. From day one she loves it, making a group of friends and doing everything, as she always does, on her own terms. Annie has cerebral palsy, and while she can walk – she describes her walk for us early on in the book – also has to use a wheelchair. In her English lesson she meets Fab, Fabian Kaczka, a boy who is equally ready to do things his way and remain unfazed by what anyone thinks of him. Their friendship develops over

their AS

level text, Wuthering Heights. Fab loves its depiction of soulmates, two people who are one, while Annie picks up on the oppression of its female characters, their

terrible teenage

supervision has led to her becoming a heroin addict. When Lexi suffers the most recent

of a series of collapses, her brother Nicholai or Nic takes her to a rehab centre on a privately owned island. The clinic is known as the Clarity Centre. Nic is the only member of Lexi’s family who knows she is on the island. Dawson’s novel charts the reasons underlying Lexi’s addiction and her struggle to overcome it. Once the book turns to the reasons for her situation, of course the complexity of the narrative increases. The merit of Dawson’s book is

it utter candour. It spares nothing. The language is in places believably profane. An addict dies. The torment of Lexi’s initial period of treatment as she begins to combat her addiction is frankly terrifying. Any teenager who read this passage before taking her first shot of the drug would flush it down the loo. At one point only Dawson strikes

an unconvincing note. When Lexi is in psychotherapy with Dr Goldstein, the director of the centre, he talks about his own experience in therapy. This violates the first principle of psychotherapeutic

namely that the process is exclusively about the patient. This remarkable book takes up

the same existential challenge that Melvyn Burgess took up with his

lack of

freedom. Their conversation as they discuss Cathy and Heathcliff, and indeed all the dialogue in the book, is witty, funny and vibrant. McLachlan was a teacher in a secondary school and depicts teenagers for the smart, thoughtful, entertaining people they are.

The book’s humour comes

entirely from the characters and their interactions. Surely the two are set on a path of

true love, but when Fab asks Annie to be ‘his girl’, she backs away.


has spent her life fighting to get the world to see her for who she is, she’s

not ‘the disabled girl’, she’s not going to be anyone’s girl. There are ups and downs before we reach the happy ending everyone wants, which takes place – of course - in Haworth! Annie and Fab are real characters,

shaped by the things life has given them – her disability, his life in a new country away from his father – but not defined by them. It’s a heart-warming story that will leave all readers feeling happier, and ready to be kinder too. LS

Children of Blood and Bone HHHH

Tomi Adeyemi, Macmillan, 600 pp, 978 1 5098 7135 3, £7.99 pbk

In a letter to her reader, Tomi Adeyemi hopes we “see a glimpse into my Nigerian heritage and the beautiful cultures and people

Africa holds”.

She wrote her novel “during a time where I kept turning on the news and seeing stories of unarmed black men and children being shot by the police”. Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach based in San Diego, California. After an English degree at Harvard, she studied West African mythology

and culture in

Salvador, Brazil. Her “epic fantasy adventure,” we learn, is “soon to be a major motion picture from Fox 2000”. Elements of this background are

very evident in these 600 pages. There is violent graphic action, which will translate readily to the screen: a nautical battle between thirty vessels, staged in a flooded arena, howled on by a bloodthirsty mob, where it’s the last captain left alive who takes the prize; the excruciating torture of a girl we have come to care about; frequent

(two brother/sister pairs, one of royal birth, the other from fisher-folk stock) speak in a contemporary idiom which may be intended to make YA readers feel at home: “you could’ve gotten us all killed”; “mess up”; “what part of that’s so hard to understand?”. Three of the four share the narration: a rebellious older

young princess; to maintain his father’s her

brother, schooled from birth tyrannical

regime, destroying the magic at the core of Orisha’s culture and history; and young Zelie, the most developed character, struggling to balance her growing magical powers against the harsh responsibilities they bring with them. Along with Zelie’s brother, they play out the episodic quest adventure to a climax where everything is at stake in the struggle between the old magic (itself so easily misused) and the ferocious determination of the state to stamp out that magic and all its practitioners. As if this were not demanding enough, the plot is also driven by irresistible attractions which draw fisher-girl to prince and fisher- boy to princess, across racial gulfs and engrained values. All

three narrators tell their

stories with painful self-awareness – especially the prince, torn between his father’s relentless training (‘Duty before self’), his disconcerting love for Zelie, and his realisation that he himself has the gifts of a ‘maji’. The action

of the writing and

they describe is frequently

frenetic, though it is sometimes there for its own excitement, rather than advancing the plot. intensity

The emotional the

hand-to-hand combat

involving martial arts, lethal staves, majacite swords, fire and magic where brutal wounds are inflicted. There are so many deaths that they risk becoming as commonplace as those of a Hollywood blockbuster. Where a fatality does not result, recovery rates from catastrophic wounds – sometimes magic-assisted – are rapid and delays to the plot are minimal.

The ancient culture,

its magic and mythology, is ever- present in an alternative

especially Nigeria

named Orisha. There are echoes of place-names we might recognise – Lagose or Eloirin, for example. Whole sentences appear in Yoruba, and individual words – gele, ahere, ashe (my keyboard cannot add the various accents) – are embedded in the prose, sometimes

without counselling,

contextual explanation. No glossary is provided. There are animals such as snow leoponaires, cheetanaires or gorillions. Now and then, those untranslated words and sentences such as, “Mother’s amber eyes scan the oleyes dressed in their finest, searching for the hyenaires hiding in the flock” may well distance or confuse – rather than intrigue – a young reader. On the other

hand, sometimes incongruously, the four young people

story’s wild originality make for exhausting reading but, for teenagers with stamina, rewarding returns. Though the ending sees ‘good’ in the ascendant, victory is far from conclusive or without cost. With a couple of pages to go, the spirit of Zelie’s ‘Mama’, briefly and poignantly reunited with her daughter, tells her, “It’s not over, little Zel. It’s only just begun”; and, I think, the last lines of the book open up the probability of a sequel. GF

The Wren Hunt HHHH

Mary Watson, Bloomsbury, 402pp, 9781408884935, £7.99 pbk

Wren has spent most of her childhood Christmases being chased by a local group of boys in a version of the old Celtic myth

‘hunting the Wren (or

Ran)’, but as she gets older so the game becomes more serious. Wren is an Augur, with magical or mystical powers and her family want to use this in order to bring them back in to prominence as they continue an age long fight with the ‘Judges’. To help with this Wren is sent to work for the judges, so that she can steal a treasure that will help her own people. As the story continues, Wren finds that things are becoming muddled; there are secrets that appear to blur her understanding of good and bad, right and wrong. Added into the mix she has a growing attraction to Tarc, a

Books for Keeps No.229 March 2018 29

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