This review is available on the Books for Keeps website
Thank you to Books for Keeps for permission to reproduce their review.
Definitely KS3 upwards!
This intense, truthful and perfectly crafted story from the double Carnegie medal-winning author, like her novel A Devil Walks, examines the issue of nature versus nurture. Both books feature young boys shut away from the world with psychologically disturbed mothers, but whereas one was a wonderful slice of gothic literature, this is a compelling and all too recognisable modern drama.
Can a child ever recover from such a dreadful abusive start? Do the petty bureaucracies that afflict social work, the police force and education system ever work in a child’s favour? What is so powerful and moving, however, is just how hard everyone is trying to do the right thing. This author does not allow herself any easy targets or any easy answers precisely because life is not like that and she captures every nuance and shade of meaning in every situation so well.
Eddie is a character who will live with you for a long time and you utterly believe in him on every step of his journey, including when it all appears to go permanently downward. The multiple narrators each offer their insights and perspectives and masterfully allow Eddie’s own voice the space for expression rather than be hampered by exposition.
The subject matter may make people wary of encouraging young people to read this book, but there is nothing here that they do not unfortunately see reflected every day in the media and the message that nothing in life is easy, but that redemption is possible, is both apt and important. Anne Fine writes not only with beautiful economy, but truthfully and with great insight into and respect for young people, who are each trying to make sense of themselves and of the society we live in and that is something we all should value and promote.
Nature versus nurture
Other books by Anne Fine that would be interesting to compare/ study
The Devil Walks (2012) ISBN: 9780552564359
A young boy raised in isolation as an invalid by his reclusive mother is taken in by the family of the local doctor but then starts to unravel the dark secrets of his family.
Road of Bones (2007) ISBN: 9780552554930
A chilling and dramatic adventure that also challenges the nature of beliefs, and how these can be taken and twisted to justify acts of real horror and inhumanity.
Step by Wicked Step ( 2001) ISBN: 9780140366471
One stormy night, five stranded school children uncover the story of Richard Clayton Harwick – a boy who many years ago learned what it was like to have a truly wicked stepfather. But the children have stories of their own step-parents to tell – stories that have warmth and humour, as well as sadness, and a fair share of happy endings.
The Tulip Touch (1997) ISBN: 9780140378085
No one is born evil. No one
Recent titles by other authors that examine children/ young people battling difficult circumstances
Salvage, Keren David (2014) Atom ISBN: 9780349001371
Aidan’s a survivor. He’s survived an abusive stepfather and an uncaring mother. He’s survived crowded foster homes and empty bedsits. He’s survived to find his sister Cass. If only he can make her understand what it means to be part of his family?
The Bone Dragon, Alexia Casale(2014) Faber ISBN: 9780571295623
A fourteen-year-old girl and her adoptive parents begin to come to terms with the abuse she suffered by her grandparents.
If You Find Me, Emily Murdoch (2014) Indigo ISBN: 9781780621531
For almost as long as she can remember, Carey has lived in a camper van in the heart of the forest with her drug-addicted mother and little sister, Jenessa. When her mother disappears, Carey’s father arrives and everything changes.
Close Your Pretty Eyes, Sally Nicholls (2013) Marion Lloyd Books ISBN: 9781407124322
Eleven-year-old Olivia has been in care since she was five, and is just beginning her sixteenth placement. Her new home is a secluded farmhouse, centuries old, where she slowly bonds with her foster family. Olivia discovers that it was once a notorious baby farm, where unwanted children were left to die. She becomes convinced that the place is haunted. She is desperate to save her new family from the ghosts. The danger is real – but does it come from the twisted mind of a very disturbed child?
These are much older but excellent if you can get hold of them. A memoir also gives an interesting angle
Georgie, Malachy Doyle (2001) Bloomsbury ISBN: 9780747551546
A young, disturbed boy whose mother is murdered is helped by care workers to confront his past and so face the future.
Once in a House on Fire, Andrea Ashworth (2007) Pan ISBN: 9780330450089
Set in 1970s Manchester, Once in a House on Fire tells the true story of three sisters and their mother, a close-knit and loving family forced to battle with poverty, abuse and the effects of depression.