reviews 14+Secondary/Adult continued

working space in his studio, where he tutors her. His wife offers her a job in the café which she and her daughter run. Kiko and Jamie fall in love-and this accumulation of fortuitous events strains the veracity of the narrative. In Bowman’s defence, these bright stars are clouded by the reality of Kiko’s panic attacks, her inability to believe in herself and her struggle to find her place, ethnically, in the world. These issues all generate reader

sympathy but they are dealt with at rather too much length. Kiko’s every panic attack or moment of anxiety is minutely described, sometimes resulting in a repetitive experience for

the reader. In addition, overweening her

mother edges too close to caricature in her behaviour towards Kiko and her


secrets, deception and treachery. Will Jude’s ambition destroy her? Or can she chart her own destiny? Holly Black catapults her readers

into a world of Faerie that is a far cry from the romanticised imagination of Disney. This is a cruel world, its inhabitants unfeeling, malicious and untrustworthy. Though in many respects immortal, they can be killed and they delight in the wounding or


Bowman is to be commended on her courage in tackling a range of important topics but when loose ends are too neatly tied at the end of the book this dilutes their impact. VR

Flying Tips for Flightless Birds HHHHH

Kelly McCaughrain, Walker, 384pp, 978-1-4063-7565-7. £7.99 pbk

killing of others. They despise humans only envying them ability to

through Jude’s eyes, lie. They are beautiful.

Jude aspires to be like them. Black creates the atmosphere of this world meticulously

through dialogue and incident. The result is a lush, immersive experience that will delight readers who have enjoyed The Game of Thrones where plot and counter-plot are the norm; where little is what it seems. This is not a book to linger over but to turn the pages quickly to follow Jude as she makes her choices – and then wait for the sequel. FH

Starfish HHH

Akemi Dawn Bowman, Ink Road, 340pp, 978-1-78530-161-2, £7.99 pbk

Kiko Himura is fighting to get out: of herself, her home, her mundane life. She is besieged by her narcissistic, domineering mother, by her anxieties, her mixed heritage and her abusive uncle. Her lifeline is her art, which she hopes will get her into Prism, the prestigious New York art school. When her application fails and Jamie, a dear childhood friend comes back into her life and invites her to stay with him at his parents’ house in California to investigate art schools there, she jumps at the chance. Her uncle’s return to the family home and her mother’s refusal to acknowledge his abuse of her cements the deal. Once she is in California, events slot

into place like an oiled jigsaw: Hiroshi Matsumoto, a famous artist, sees the potential in Kiko’s work and gives her

Finch and Birdie Franconi (to use their stage names) are twins. They are circus performers in Britain. They perform in the family circus and in the circus school Franconi’s. Their specialty act is as trapeze artists. Birdie is usually the flyer, the one clinging to the trapeze, while Finch is usually the catcher. The school is in trouble. The twins must mount an end of term show successful enough to recruit more students and generate the money to keep the school from collapsing. The novel poses the


whether the twins can actually mount the show needed to save the school, and how their attempt will have its impact on their family of circus folk. As far as this reviewer is aware, this

is a unique book. It depicts the world of circus performers from the inside with a wealth of specialised knowledge of the strains and pains that world must endure. The book presents some memorable characters. Hector Hazard is a trainee clown who is to start with almost an unbelievably poor performer. His efforts to improve are engagingly presented, Lou is the twins’ grandmother. She pushes a trolley around, swears loudly

drinks whisky and at

teenagers. The

message if the book is the validity of identity: if you are true to yourself it is OK to be different. The author is true to her own creed. Her book is unusual and true

to itself and profoundly satisfying. RB She, Myself and I HH

Emma Young, Stripes, 248pp, 978-1-84715-942-7, £7.99 pbk

Rosa Marchant is a British girl of eighteen. She has what is described as a terminal nerve condition. She is waiting to be the subject of a global medical first, a full body transplant. Her brain will be moved to a healthy body. It is her only chance of survival. The parents of Sylvia Johnson, the dead

assume, and Rosa’s own parents have

girl whose all agreed

operation neither

body Rosa that

after couple

will the


contact with the other. There will also be no press coverage. The book now poses


existential questions. Will the operation succeed? If it does, to what extent will Rosa remain herself? To what extent will she become Sylvia? Rosa knows nothing of Sylvia but her name. What will it be like to be a human being with zero degrees of self-knowledge? And finally there are clear rules surrounding the operation and its aftermath: but what


happen if the new Rosa violates those rules?

There is a philosophical problem arising from the

very essence of

Young’s book. It seems as if the physical entity and even the personal attributes of the dead donor flood into some kind of vacuum that calls itself Rosa. Without the

of another person, Rosa is a blank. Young

struggles, on the

injection whole

successfully, with the consequences of this problem. But in the end it is the premise that stays in the memory, the premise that without miraculous treatment

disabled nonentities. Sadly, State of Sorrow HHHH

Melinda Salisbury, Scholastic, 452pp, 9781407180274 £7.99 pbk

Sorrow is born the day her brother, heir to the Ventaxis throne, dies. She inherits a nation dedicated to grief. Her mother is dead, her father has given himself to a drug induced state of mourning. Joy, laughter, enjoyment, art, games are all forbidden.


Sorrow knows is a grief that is not hers. It is time for change – but she is facing a cunning enemy. Is she strong enough? What will be the price of winning? Melinda

people are this wheelchair-

using reviewer found the book an ordeal rather than a pleasure to read. RB

a lack of experience. The journey to adulthood is a familiar theme in fantasy, and here Salisbury creates a lively

girl, a making that recognisable the uncomfortable

journey and facing realisation

teen, that

growing up is not simple nor an ideal. It may, indeed, involve betrayal and compromise. The story is not over – fans will eagerly await the next instalment. FH

Stranger HHHH

Keren David, Atom, 354pp, 9780349003054, £7.99, pbk

This story hits the ground running from the first with the arrival in 1904 of a naked and bloody adolescent boy into Astor, an imaginary recently founded small Canadian town. He was initially thought to be a runaway chore boy from one of many lumber camps then around that were slowly changing the landscape. But the boy has no language and apparently no name. Taken in by teenage Emmy and her family against considerable local opposition, his tragic story gradually leaks out though never entirely. Fast forward to 1994, when

Megan, another teenager, is spending time in Astor with her relatives after the end of a traumatic love affair in Britain which resulted in an abortion. Her great grandmother, the same Emmy of 1904, is dying and so unable to answer the many questions Megan comes up with as she slowly untangles this past mystery. Emmy’s story and her own are told in tandem, with the final outcome never clear until the last page. This is all very professionally done, with Keren David well in charge of her material as she flits from one time zone to another. Her descriptions of living in a newish turn of the century Canadian town are

particularly interesting, that comparatively given little has been

written about this particular time and place. So all in all a very good novel, only

slightly marred by too many

introspective examinations of feelings both ancient and modern. A little misery goes a long way; too much on the page risks bogging down even a narrative as admirably crafted and honest as this one. NT

Salisbury has already

made her name for creating dark and dangerous world with her debut trilogy The Sin-Eater’s Daughter. This new novel does not disappoint. Salisbury’s richly imagined world will draw the reader in a willing participant in events. There is jeopardy aplenty – and a twist to ensure interest never flags. Sorrow is a strong character determined to break free from the constraints

of her situation – but choice brings consequences; as does Books for Keeps No.229 March 2018 31

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