Wednesday, 29 February 2012

One to Watch Wednesday

I’ve recently finished a really great book. I loved it, and I’m struggling – even 2 weeks on – to not talk about it at work, at lunch with my friends, on the phone to my mum, on twitter, on facebook, to strangers on the bus … The book was John Green’sThe Fault in our Stars’ and if you’ve not read it – or not read any of Green’s books – I strongly recommend you do … then we can talk about it together.

‘The Fault in our Stars’ is a brave and unsentimental story of young people growing up with cancer. It’s also a great example of writing economically (which fits in nicely with Scott’s blog from yesterday). Green writes YA literature at its very best – which, to me, means YA literature that’s not really for ‘young adults’ at all, but new, nostalgic adults trying to remember, examine and understand what it was like to be an adolescent.

After reading ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, I decided to investigate the YA books on authonomy. I’m pleased to say, there’s no shortage of it; however, there aren’t many that don’t also cross over into fantasy – which is a fair, if unfortunate, reflection of the market for YA in general. I wanted to use this week’s one to watch to recommend one of the exceptions:


Like most great YA, ‘Stones’ addresses real issues that young people contend with in modern society: family struggles, alcoholism, secrecy, friendship, and homelessness. At its heart is Coo – a girl growing up in the shadow of a family tragedy: the alcoholism and death of her brother – who, truanting from school one morning, meets an unconventional trio of Brighton homeless.

The writing style also matches the genre well. Each chapter is prefaced by an excerpt from Coo’s ‘Thought Diary’, which I love as a concept, and really ties the narrative together. I would like a few less similes – for instance, I’d prefer something like ‘commuters barge past me, holding shields of stinking coffee’ to ‘commuters barge past me the other way, cups of stinking coffee held before them like shields – but the imagery itself is strong. The opening scene captures Brighton seafront brilliantly, whilst the flashes of Coo’s nightmares that pierce the scene set up just the right tone of intrigue.

In the author’s own words:

Being threatened by a mad tramp seems just more bad luck to ‘Coo.’ Instead it leads to a meeting that will change her life forever.

Coo’s alcoholic brother Sam has died and her family is falling apart. Unable to speak of her own role in his death, or forgive her parents for failing to protect her, she is searching for a lifeline.

Truanting by the Brighton seafront, Coo believes it’s just another bad day, but then she meets three people: an aggressive tramp called Mad Alec; his mate ‘Banks’ and a boy named Joe.

Banks is not a regular tramp. He speaks of Wittgenstein, forgiveness and the power of stones, but at the same time there are reports of attacks in the area. Coo begins to suspect Mad Alec, but Banks seems determined not to listen.

Through a strange midnight feast, a near drowning and the unravelling of secrets, the girl and the tramp seek a chance of redemption, until they find that their feelings are dangerously astray.

Mad Alex finally confronts Coo and she learns that there are limits to forgiveness, and that some broken things can never be mended.

‘Stones’ is a story aimed at the teenage market but also appeals to adults. It is set in present day Brighton.

7 comments:

Ian D Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ian D Smith said...

Already on my authonomy shelf.

Mary Vensel White said...

This book has been on my shelf several times...so happy to see this recognition. Cariad is another example of an authonomy member who has been here a long time, offering constructive reviews and positive vibes. But if you don't look at the book for that reason, look at it because it's good!

Anonymous said...

Ooh. Thanks so much. You could be right about the similes, and I have in fact rewritten this book (in first person past tense)on the recommendation of an agent, but I daren't put it up here in case the whole thing vanishes.

Had a really bad day today, so this has cheered me up.

Polly J.

Claire said...

I can't stop talking about a great book I've read recently either - Come to the Edge by Christina Haag - and I still bang on about one I read in 2010 - the Song is You by Arthur Phillips!

Anonymous said...

This book has been on my shelf for ever, and though I'm not on as often as I'd like, I'm glad to see it's on One to Watch. Nice to see some non-fantasy based YA, I aqree.
Marigold (still writing my book about the coalfields!)

Ben Daniel said...

I'm fairly new here, but would like to point out that I'm currently writing a non-fiction, non-fantasy YA novel. I already have seven chapters uploaded to the site and am in the process of writing an eigth (about to hit 17,000) words.

The Frogness of Being is an inspirational, true story about my battle with mental illness throughout my teenage years. It's a story which I feel needs to be told in light of a substantial increase in the number of teen suicides.

Please feel free to click the link from my profile :)