reviews 14+Secondary/Adult continued

fight, the funny and empathetic gay best friend, the alternating narrators. But beyond these features, they also explore an intimacy which lies outside the

grasp of Sophia and Matt’s

closest friends (complex characters in their own right with psychological disabilities you wouldn’t anyone);

and also beyond

wish on their

parents who in different ways - in yet another YA stereotype - display a lack of understanding worthy of Lord and Lady Capulet. The abrasive energy of the words actions

and around Sophia and

Matt – and even those over-used YA features – stand in contrast to the sincerity and delicacy of the love between

them, often through tenderness, expressed quick and

responsive humour, and the gentle, searching language of both words and bodies. To communicate such a love is a challenge for authors who allow themselves a plot time-span of just nine days, though a final ‘One Year Later’ chapter gives a glimpse of how things develop. It’s not giving too much away to disclose that the story of Sophia and Matt doesn’t conclude as terminally as R&J. GF

Editing Emma: The Secret Blog Of A Nearly Proper Person


Chloe Seager, Harper Collins, 328pp, 978 0008 2209 76, £7.99, pbk

This highly contemporary novel has much to say

relationships, friendship and identity. Emma’s boyfriend

about Leon

in her

her, ie. simply stopped seeing her and began a relationship

teenage ‘ghosted’ with

someone else. Emma, inconsolable, closets herself

in her pyjamas and stalks

bedroom him

through his social media accounts, obsessing about their time together and cherishing her tiny collection of memorabilia from their relationship: a blood-stained plaster which Leon once used and the wrappers from the Chewit sweets which he shared with her. There are real shades of the late, great Louise Rennison here, though the humour is not always as sharply and

hilariously focused. However,

Emma’s misery is real and credible and her friends rally round to support her, though not always achieving what they aim to do. There is a seam of well- handled farce in the bedrock of the narrative,

too, which complements

Emma’s woe and gives it credibility. She decides that the cure for her

sadness is to meet someone else on line-hence the accidental discovery of her mother’s Tinder profile, and a ‘date’ with a fellow pupil whose only interests

are computer

handling friendships, finding an identity. Emma finds hers when, at her mother’s suggestion she begins to develop

her talent for making

clothes and realises that when she does this she not only likes herself much better but also realises that she does not need to be part of a couple in order to define herself. With these

discoveries Emma

makes new resolutions about how she uses the internet and how she assesses her self-worth. These are in the form of a list and so give a rather rushed feel to the ideas, a shame, as much of the rest of the book is carefully considered. VR

They Both Die at the End HHH

Adam Silvera, Simon and Schuster, 376pp, 978 1 4711 6620 4, £7.99 pbk

This thought-provoking novel is set in a near future New York where everyone is told of their imminent death so they have 24 hours to fulfil their last wishes. An entire industry has grown up around this premise offering virtual reality experiences,

virtual visits to

countries and free last meals. When Mateo Torrez gets the call he

at first holes up in his room deciding carefully what he should do. His mother is dead and his father is in a coma in hospital. He wants to visit his father one last time and tidies up the flat before leaving but he also realises he does not want to be alone on his last day so connects with the Last Friend app on his phone. That same day Death Cast has also called up Rufus Emeterio while he is beating up his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend and he could do with some company also as the police are on his trail and his friends have dispersed. After a few false starts the two arrange to meet to face their last day together. The pairing of these two unlikely teen is inspired and brings out the best in them both. Mateo is naturally more cautious and anxious while Rufus is the more reckless and open of the two although he suffers terrible guilt as his parents and sister were killed in a car accident. He has lived in a children’s home during the past few months. With chapter-headings counting

down time which adds to the urgency, the

boys embark on a

stop adventure possessions,

seeing friends

giving away their and

family, and discussing their hopes of what they might have aspired to had they had a future. Naturally they become inexorably closer as the day ensues.

This is a well written novel technology

and packets of Minstrels. Alongside the slapstick humour Seager raises issues which are of real relevance to young people - finding a place in society, being gay, family problems,

about the power of friendship, hope and love written in an authentic teen voice. Although perhaps a little too drawn out in places this book is both heart-breaking

and heart-warming

and is far more about living life to the full and not letting fear hold you back than a novel about death. JC

whistle- Freshers HHHH

Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison, Chicken House 384pp, 978-1-9106-5588-7, £7.99pbk

Luke Taylor and Phoebe Bennet

went to the same secondary school, though they were not special friends. During their first week reading English literature at the fictional York Metropolitan University they become reacquainted. Luke has just ended his three-year relationship with Abby Baker, a girl from his home town. The book poses the question whether Luke and Phoebe are destined to become an item. Luke also joins the university football team, the first ever freshman to make the university first XI. Football might provide the solace he requires after his broken relationship. Or will the game just generate problems of its own? Ellen and Ivison’s book has a dual

narrative viewpoint, sections narrated by Phoebe, sections by Luke. Painting a picture of early days at university, the book pulls few punches. There is plenty of profane language, plenty of sexual encounters and plenty of banned substances. An unplanned and

potentially team disastrous sexual

accident occurs, not to be described further for fear of spoiling. And the football

indulges in some

laddish behaviour which shades over into criminality, Luke being a reluctant insider. These goings-on end one female student’s university career. The characters in this story are

deeply flawed and utterly authentic. This reviewer

found however that

despite the convincing narrative on the activities described above, scant regard was paid to the business of learning. Learning may not be as much fun as sex and football. But in my old-fashioned view it is the main purpose of university life. RB

The Taste of Blue Light HHHHH

Lydia Ruffles, Faber, 345pp, 9781444936735, £12.99 hbk

This emotionally explosive novel is, in the author’s own words, a ‘hormonal ferment, a soup of


narratives.’ It’s told as if by 18-year- old Lux Langley, who has lost her memory of the

trauma exclusive and that has

caused her to suffer subsequently from agonising migraines, insomnia and periods of near insanity. A pupil at

slightly creepy

Richdeane Arts School set in London and catering for young artists thought to possess great talent, she is looked after loyally by her two best friends and an on-site therapist. Her parents are also very supportive when they are allowed to be, putting up with their daughter’s frequent refusal to see them with stoic patience. There is also a potential boyfriend, plenty of alcohol and recreational drugs and numerous parties, none of which Lux enjoys in the slightest. The daily outpourings of angst as she blames other and also herself

for the state she is in could over so many pages have soon turned into a prolonged exercise in privileged self- pity. But debut author Lydia Ruffles, no longer a teenager herself


with some first-hand experience of what Lux has to go through, largely avoids going down this path by the exercise of her obvious intelligence, her sharp wit and a lively prose style. Her novel is still too long, taking more than twice the time to describe this particular ennui that

version of J.D.Salinger and Sylvia

Plath needed for their novels written in the same genre. But Lux is so obviously suffering and is also so well portrayed that readers will soon warm to a character who can also at times be extremely

trying. ‘Fasten your

seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night,’ warns Bette Davis half-way through her best film, All About Eve. She could also have been describing this sprawling, angry, darkly amusing and ultimately life-affirming story. NT

The Crash HHHHH

Lisa Drakeford, Chicken House, 285pp, 9-781911-077176, £7.99, pbk

The wonderfully striking cover of

The Crash, with its jagged shards against a polished silver background effectively suggests the drama within. Sophie and her best friend Tye are watching television together when a car crashes through the lounge window, almost destroying the house- and Tye, who is taken to hospital in a coma –‘the ghost of her best friend.’ The crashed car contained twins, Harry and Gemma and a local charismatic petty criminal, Deano, to whom Gemma was in thrall. Complications arise when a strong

mutual attraction develops between Sophie and Harry,

apparently but the latter the

driver of the car. Their necessarily secret relationship mirrors Gemma and Deano’s,


undercurrents of bullying and violence and exists only in Deano’s underground world of criminal activity, into which Gemma is dangerously drawn. Drakeford adds Sophie’s next door neighbour Issy to this complex mix of shifting loyalties, as the victim of the domestic violence meted out to both her and her Polish mother by her mother’s vicious boyfriend, Dave and a witness to the aftermath of the crash. These shadowy worlds of threat

and danger are carefully juxtaposed through the device of a multiple- layered narrative which shifts skilfully backwards

and forwards through

time. The effect of this is to gradually and tantalisingly peel back the layers behind which characters hide from what they most wish to conceal- Sophie’s relationship

Gemma’s with Deano, Tye’s pertinent to

with Harry, with

Jordan, Issy’s fear for her mother’s life. This is a rich and complex story which tackles a number of difficult issues

contemporary society: it is sincere, gripping and enlightening. VR Books for Keeps No.226 September 2017 31 adolescent

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