My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book, and am puzzled by the number of poor reviews, especially those that cannot identify the time period (er… what about the zillion references to the Vietnam war?), or mis-spell the protagonists’ names or say that Meredith ‘tells but doesn’t show’. Genuinely puzzled. I wonder if the advance review copy was very different – or whether the reviewers simply need to read something different. (Maybe this is a problem with publishers sending out advance copies.)
I am interested in the concept of three protagonists, all as viewpoint characters rather than omniscient. I have been mulling over why I got them muddled, and I have come to the conclusion that it is voice. Although they each have different modus operandi, different interests and increasingly separate paths, I am not sure that any of their voices were distinct enough for me to be certain at any point who was speaking. This is an observation not a criticism, because I think this might accurately reflect the homogeneity of teenage girls (or boys, but we are discussing girls here). You only have to overhear a few contemporary teenage girl’s saying “And I was, like…” to be reminded of this.
However, although, technically, each chapter started with the character clearly identified, I think it did contribute to me not being quite sure who had done what, or which family they came from (did they have a mother hidden behind the settee, or had their mother left?). At times I felt I would have liked a small spreadsheet, but that’s just me! I think on second reading (and there definitely will be a second reading) I will be clearer, and spot things that didn’t register the first time. Because there is a lot in this book.
The other thing I specifically liked is how it felt such a ‘complete’ book, despite not knowing what happened to poor Lefty, nor what Henry had to say about Magda’s departure. Psychologically everything felt really tied up and rounded off at the end ). I love that they took the weed back – there are just so many little pointers to these being good people. Teenagers get such bad press, and on the surface you can see why. But this books is a brilliant depiction of burrowing into the reasons behind ‘delinquency’.
I did wonder, a little bit, whether the girls’ precociousness was a true reflection of the teenage characters, or whether their insight and wisdom better reflected the adult author. But far be it from me to suggest that a novel should dumb down on sophistication just to be more believable. In any case, these girls were ‘broadening their minds’ (shall we say) much younger than I did.
One last thing: it’ not really ‘young adult’. It’s just a book. It would be a real shame if people were put off reading it because they thought it would be too young for them. Meredith does not talk down at all, in the way that many YA authors seem to. Maybe this is a UK v US publishing thing, but usually I can’t get beyond the first page, and if I do, I abandon it half way for something more fulfilling. No fulfilment issues here.
PS It is really annoying to see that neither Totnes Library nor the Totnes Bookshop stock the book, even though the author lives in Plymouth. Don’t bookshops and libraries research and promote local authors?