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reviews


and an insistence that the family dog can talk. When Gracie is invited to join the coveted top table of popular students she is determined that Bee’s often bizarre behaviour is not going to prejudice her new position – especially when the handsome-and


vacuous


– Chris Crosby asks her to be his girlfriend. Gracie’s new priorities cause her to behave as self-centredly as her new friends and she wounds Bee by lying to her about the cancellation of Chris’s younger sister’s birthday party, worried that Bee’s strange behaviour might cause Chris to


relationship with her. The death of


their


rethink his beloved


grandfather adds to the girls’ woes and Bee fixates on a mythical place, the Hotel Magnificent-where the answers to all problems are to be found. The girls find themselves guided there when a night of fierce storms has destroyed their overnight camping trip and this extended passage of magic realism is both utterly credible and extremely moving. Here, the dead are briefly united with the living and the respite from their sorrows which the girls so badly need is provided. This is a remarkable book-resonant with wisdom, beautifully written and impossible to put down. VR


10 – 14 Middle/Secondary continued Boy Meets Hamster


HHH


Birdie Milano, Macmillan, 382pp, 978 150 984 865 2, £6.99 pbk


This comedy romance for young


teens tells the tale of Dylan Kershaw – a fourteen year old boy who is desperate for his first kiss. He hopes that it might arrive on some beautiful dream holiday, somewhere like New York. Sadly, though, Dylan’s mum has booked the family a trip to somewhere rather less cosmopolitan: a cheesy caravan park in Cornwall. Even if Dylan was able to find


any suitable kissing candidates in a seriously uncool campsite, his search for love is hampered by the fact that he has to spend most nights looking after his younger brother, Jude. Dylan is fiercely protective of Jude, who uses a wheelchair, but chaperoning someone who loves Twinkle the Train and Nibbles the Giant Hamster does nothing for one’s romantic credibility. Dylan’s parents aren’t much help either. His dad spends most of his time in a full (but very old) football strip and his mum buys corn beef in bulk and cuts holiday vouchers out of the newspaper.


Only Dylan’s friend, Kayla, understands him. She is the only


person who knows he is gay and, despite battling plenty of her own insecurities,


supports Dylan


throughout as he tries to pluck up the courage to tell the gorgeous Jayden Lee from the neighbouring caravan how much he fancies him. In almost every chapter, Dylan


bumps into Jayden Lee one way or another, and he always manages to utterly embarrass himself, in a series of slapstick scenes. Chewing gum in hair, heads stuck in trousers, and massive karaoke-inspired brawls, are just some of the ways that Dylan fails to endear himself to his impossibly sexy crush. Though there are plenty of laughs


to be had, readers will find some of


Dylan’s catastrophes


predictable, and it is welcome relief when an act of bravery in a swimming pool interrupts the carousel of bad luck and sends the story in a new direction. Though it is a book about new relationships and for love, it is the entirely


rather desperation and confusion that is


served up by teenage love affairs. Dylan and Kayla’s journeys of self- discovery will feel familiar to many readers, and show that beauty exists in all shapes and sizes and that love sometimes comes in disguise. SD


Bank HHH


Emma Quigley, Little Island, 978-1- 9104-1197-1, 252p, £7.99 pbk


looking platonic


friendship between Kayla and Dylan that offers the most sensitive and enjoyable parts of the story. Kayla and Dylan both have things they wish to hide, but both have passions they long to share. They very much rely on one another to navigate the troubled waters of young romance. There is a strong coming-of-age


feeling to this book, and teenage readers, of any sexuality, will recognise the cocktail of Adrenalin,


14+ Secondary/Adult Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. HHHHH


Malcolm Duffy, 320pp, Zephyr, 978 -1-78669764-6, £10.99 hbk.


Danny Croft is aged fourteen. He lives with his mother and her boyfriend Callum


in Newcastle. Danny’s


mother adores Callum. Callum keeps showering Danny with gifts, as a way of winning his affection. But when Callum loses his temper, he loses it completely. He is violent towards Danny’s mother. Danny is frightened


when he


reads online about women dying from domestic violence. He makes up his mind that his mother will not become one such victim. Danny asks people at school who would be the best person to avert this danger. They all answer that person is Danny’s father. So Danny decides to seek out his biological father, whom he has never hitherto met, and ask him for a special favour. Will he please kill Callum? Duffy’s book recounts the meeting of father and son and the outcome of that meeting. As a novelist Malcolm Duffy meets


a challenge head on. The book is a first person narrative in a Geordie dialect. Never once does the authenticity of the narration waver. Duffy’s career as an advertising copywriter in the south has not weakened his grasp of his


native dialect. The immediacy of the text is potent. RB


The Girl in the Broken Mirror HHHH


Savita Kalhan, Troika, 336pp, 978 1 909991 63 7, £6.99 pbk


“But until she could say the word for what had happened to her – that terrible, vile, shameful word ...” Nine painful pages into a Prologue, readers will already realise that fifteen year old Jay has been raped; “the bruises, the dried blood and the sticky stuff on her legs”, “the soiled sheets”, the bulging right eye, the futile scouring of her skin with Dettol in a scalding shower, the face in the mirror she finds “repulsive and grotesque”. The next 130 pages (Part 1) trace the preceding months for Jay – short for Jaya, short for Jayalakshmi. Her comfortable world had fallen apart three years earlier when her Dad had driven his car into a tree, having just learned his business had failed. Jay’s life at St Montague’s, the North London private school she loved, also came to an abrupt end; her new school, Kingswell Secondary, is far more abrasive, though she’s made good friends in Chloe and Matt. Now her mother, Neela, unable to make ends meet, decides they have no choice but to quit their tiny


rented flat above a grocer’s shop and accept an offer


of accommodation


with distant relatives Aunty Vimala and Uncle Bali. Jay’s Dad had no time for the rules and restrictions of traditional British Indian families - he would have ridiculed Aunty Vimala’s regime with all its snobbery and hypocrisy. In return for an attic room for Neela and a basement storeroom for herself, Jay and her mum are tacitly expected to fulfil the duties of domestic servants at No. 42, Primrose Avenue. Aunty V. decides that Uncle Bali’s


60th Birthday is the perfect excuse for a party – 100 guests, a marquee, the house and gardens looking their best, no need for


outside Prologue, caterers since


Jay and her mother are such good cooks and can double up as waiters. Experienced YA readers, remembering that


will surely Vimala’s adored anticipate


that a party is once again likely to precipitate plot catastrophes. Deven, Aunty


older son,


comes home from uni and invites his mates along – all as loathsome and chauvinistic as Deven himself. Late in the party, Jay retreats to her basement, only for Deven and his friends to start their own party in the small gymnasium next to her room. What follows is written with unflinching intensity as the boys use Jay as a kind of rag-doll plaything in their drunken dancing. Gang rape is imminent. Ash, Aunty V’s gentle


younger son, seems to have saved the day for Jay, only for Deven to return and savagely assault her. Part 2 opens with a distraught Jay


wandering the streets, getting as far as she can from Primrose Avenue. In a coincidental encounter which might have given a Victorian novelist second thoughts, Jay literally stumbles into a woman on the street who turns out to be none other than Sita Anandhati, the retired matron of St Montague’s, her


old school. With her medical


skills and a kindly wisdom born of experience, Sita begins the slow, loving work of restoring Jay’s body, then her sense of self-worth. In time, Neela also comes to lodge with Sita, an arrangement which suits all three. Rehab is not without alarms – at one point Jay hunts her abuser with murderous knife in hand, at another only her inability to tie a noose with the cord of an electric lawnmower thwarts a suicide attempt. Contrasting values are at work. Sita grew up in the Indian community in Kenya, immigrating to the UK hungry for a life in the West. Neela and Jay must first find each other again, and then rediscover the liberal confidence they had enjoyed when Jay’s father was alive. By contrast, the culture of No. 42 is brittle, superficial and sexist. The experiences of rape victims are well-documented in our society,


Books for Keeps No.230 May 2018 29


When Finn comes up with a foolproof way to make some money, Luke is not immediately convinced. But the idea of lending money to their hard up classmates – and demanding interest – is too attractive. This is just the beginning and Finn’s ideas get more and more outrageous such as involving investing in a dating app. But pride comes before a fall – or is it a crash? Will the boys survive? This is a refreshing romp told with assurance and conviction. The author captures the dialogue between the boys to bring them off the page and into the reader’s imagination. This is not a tale full of trauma and crime. It is a tale of friendships and mad ideas against the background of a school that


young readers will instantly


recognise; immediate and authentic. The storytelling is brisk, the incidents follow swiftly as the drama escalates and even the teachers seem human though drawn with a light touch. FH


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