A YA novel told from the perspective of someone with Down’s syndrome. A love story inspired by the author’s experiences alongside her severely autistic brother.
“Variously described as folklore, fantasy and mystery, The Wren Hunt wears its labels lightly, shedding one genre for another with a sort of slippery grace that initially confuses. But the story takes flight once Wren is ensconced in the judges’ territory, and the book settles into a deft equilibrium between thriller and myth. Watson’s writing has the sort of poise rarely found in a debut, moving the plot at a steady pace, shot through with moments of true beauty.” Kiran Millwood Hargrave, GUARDIAN Review
Rebecca Mead writes in the New Yorker about rereading My Friend Flicka as an adult and sharing it with her son:
One of the privileges of parenthood is re-reading beloved books from childhood with one’s own children, in spite of the sometimes pronounced stylistic gulf that exists between kid lit of earlier eras and that of today. (I doubt that, in the age of the Kindle free sample, Arthur Ransome would get away with a first chapter quite so replete with sailing arcana as he did, in 1930, with “Swallows and Amazons.”) But when I picked up “My Friend Flicka” again recently, to read it aloud to my ten-year-old son, I did so with some trepidation. What might the book, a realist family drama set in the American West of eighty-odd years ago, mean to a city child who, given a free rein, selects action-packed fantasy series—in all of which, it seems, a group of children, miraculously untethered from the influence of their parents, undergo adventures in a supernatural or dystopian-futuristic world, battling the forces of evil on behalf of the good? Besides that, how would “My Friend Flicka” read to a child whose exposure to horses is so limited that he doesn’t know a fetlock from a forelock?
So, yes: there is some unfamiliar horsey terminology—discussion of corrals, and sires, and lariats, and so on. (There’s also a rather gruesome chapter about the process of gelding, the discussion of which has made an interesting addendum to fifth-grade health class.) But the life of a child on a horse ranch is so wildly different from that of a child who rides the G train daily that the book’s realism—the spaciousness of Ken’s day-to-day existence—reads like fantasy. In the opening chapter, Ken has just returned to the ranch for the summer from boarding school, and is alone, on horseback, at dawn, surveying the land. “From here he looked west over a hundred miles of the greengrass; and south across the great stretch of undulating plateau land that ran down to Twin Peaks, and beyond that across broken crags and interminable rough terrain, mysterious with hidden valleys and gorges and rocky headlands.” When we got to the part of the book in which Ken and his brother Howard go out hunting rabbits—with their own guns—my son’s eyes widened with disbelief.
But the most compelling aspect of “My Friend Flicka” is not the external drama of Ken’s life, though there is plenty of that. (A mountain lion stalking the range looms as a perpetual threat to man and beast.) What makes it the perfect book for a boy on the cusp of puberty—particularly a dreamy, distracted, and imaginative boy on the cusp of puberty—is Ken’s inner drama. While the book is ostensibly about horses, its true subject is first love.
A heart-pounding love story that grips like a riptide, and doesn’t let go…Fifteen-year old Sam has moved from the big city to the coast – stuck there with his mum and sister on the edge of nowhere. Then he meets beautiful but damaged surfer-girl Jade.
“I read Kook with my heart in my mouth the whole way…” Emily Drabble, Guardian Children’s Books
When I was a teenager, I used to go with my friends to the beaches of Bamburgh and Beadnell. We’d camp in the dunes, have parties on the beach. We’d swim in the icy sea, watch seals, terns, oystercatchers. We’d sit by blazing fires as the beams of lighthouses swept across us and the astonishing stars glittered above. We’d talk of love, death, football, Tamla Motown, Allen Ginsberg, God, ghosts, grief. We’d talk of where we’d go, what we’d do, how we hoped we’d live. We went back to our ordinary lives on Tyneside: school, exams, families, council houses. Not so different, perhaps, from the lives of the young people in my book. They live by the Tyne. They are sixth formers in a comprehensive. They love music and each other. They yearn for joy and freedom. They travel north and have parties on the beach. They try to turn Northumberland into Greece. They try to think that the sun is warm and the sea is not icy. They sing and dance with abandon. Orpheus appears among them one morning as the sun rises over the sea, and he begins to sing them into a new understanding of themselves. Eurydice is Ella Grey, a girl who is not even there when he first appears. She hears his voice through the mobile phone of her best friend, Claire. It is enough: she knows she has always known him and he has always known her. The ancient love is recreated and so it all begins again. Claire is the narrator. She is also in love with Ella Grey. She watches, recounts, tries to share her friend’s joy and calm her own fears. But she can do nothing to stem the trajectory of the ancient, lovely, terrible tale.
This historical tale has a magnficently wintry opening:
The snow had come early, blanketing the land on All Souls’ Eve and re-covering it at regular intervals, up to and beyond the Solstice. Old Scratch had never known such a persistent piling up of the stuff. Day in, day out it came, with drifts touching what passed for his roof and no respite, not even on melt days, because the melting only went so far before the sky turned goose-grey again and down came another load, white upon white upon white.
When Tony Bradman reviewed this novel for The Guardian he said of it:
Julie Hearn writes with real skill, her style equally at home with the natural and supernatural, with rude mechanicals and over-reaching Tudor courtiers, with fairy-tale tropes and psychological realism. All the elements are familiar, but the final result is one of genuine originality.
Random House Children’s Publishers (RHCP) will next year publish a collection of YA love stories edited by children’s laureate Malorie Blackman.
Love Hurts is a mixture of new stories and extracts from published books. Contributing authors include Melvin Burgess, James Dawson, Laura Dockrill, Patrick Ness,Phil Earle, Matt Haig, Non Pratt, David Levithan, Bali Rai and Maureen Johnson.
The book will be published in paperback in February next year.
Penguin’s digital Valentine campaign consists of a set of imagery in a variety of formats displaying quotations from assorted Penguin books, and all made available to ‘social media’ to distribute on the publisher’s behalf, which I am obligingly doing.
Rather clever of their marketing team, what?
More images in this flickr set:
No flowers. No hearts. No clichés. Cupid’s not invited. These are contemporary tales of modern romance from some of our finest authors – hilarious, troubling, poignant, real, and raw, these books make ideal purchases whether you’re happily betrothed or recently dumped. Look out for some of our favourite quotes from these titles