Monthly Archives: July 2015

Fire Colour One

Jenny Valentine

HarperCollins

9780007512362

July 2015

paperback

This is SO good! Absolutely up my street. An economically written YA novel with wryly observed characters and an original storyline that is emotionally engaging to a degree that more overblown, in-your-face writing can never reach.
I want Wes Anderson to discover it and make a movie of it.
Sixteen-year-old Iris has long been estranged from her father, until she is taken from America by her mother and step-father (the shallowness of these two is both mercilessly and totally believably depicted) to visit him on his deathbed.
But not before she has met the most amazing boy called Thurston around whom life becomes magical and positive.
Iris is not a happy teenager. She has taken to lighting fires of various magnitudes.
The tone and story arc of the book cannot be faulted. Valentine is an expert at writing dialogue, and needs to be in the long heart-wrenching scenes between the dying art-expert father and his estranged daughter.
This is what YA fiction used to be like before the days of rampant fantasy and vampire romance.
It has immediately become, like M. T. Anderson’s Feed, one of my favourite young adult novels of all time.
You know, sometimes those straplines speak the truth: “A bold and brilliant novel about love, lies and redemption,” says the back cover. Believe it, buy it, read it.

All My Secrets

Sophie McKenzie

Simon & Schuster

9781471122217

July 2015

paperback

The author recently described her approach to plotting in a Guardian feature.
“With every scene I write I ask myself:
Is what has happened unexpected, yet credible and convincing?
Is the plot unfolding clearly: neither so slow that it’s boring nor so fast that it’s confusing?
Is the main character(s) at the heart of the scene, moving the action on?”
This technique is very much at play in Sophie McKenzie’s 24th novel, about a 16 year old girl who suddenly learns that she has been left a large inheritance by her mother, a ballerina allegedly killed many years ago in a motor accident. The news and revelation about the circumstances of her birth are so shocking to Evie that she is sent away to Lightsea, a Scottish island specialising in the rehabilitation of teenagers who have gone off the rails in various ways. The formulaic storytelling technique is initially effective but somewhat grating over time, especially when the narrative becomes increasingly overwrought. When every single chapter ends with a carefully stage-managed ‘cliffhanger’ the effect on a mature, experienced reader is underwhelming. But this book is presumably aimed at an audience younger than the main character (who has just finished her GCSEs) – readers of 10+ with a liking for BBC thriller dramas. Certainly the romantic maturity of Evie is more in tune with Y6 girls than with older teenagers.
I’d be happy to suggest it as pageturning holiday reading for 10-13 yr olds, but would want to steer older readers towards alternatives.
There is a freshness at the start of the book that becomes unrecognisable by the end. It is as if all the characters have become mangled by the mechanics of the story structure.