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I like to read classics, historical fiction and world lit. Oh and I love short stories.


Feral Youth (Polly Courtney)

Feral Youth - Polly Courtney

The author has been kind enough to provide me with a copy of this book to review.

I really enjoyed this book. It met the expectations I had before I started reading. I was intrigued by the subject matter, as it offered a story from the perspective of one of the many youths who rioted in the London riots. The character of Alesha is certainly the strongest point of this book. You get a real insight into her life, her way of thinking and her view of the world. It isn't pretty, and it helps to understand why she does the things she does.

I also really liked the voice of Alesha. And by that I mean that I absolutely loved the writing. Courtney has done great research and talked to kids like Alesha to get her way of speaking, her slang and her grammar right. This adds flavor and depth to the book, and helps pull the reader into Alesha's world. It's like Alesha's talking to you, like there's no author inbetween to convery her story and her thoughts.

I was drawn to Alesha's relation to JJ. I thought it was really intriguing how they'd do anything for eachother and regard eachother as the closest person in the whole world, yet at the same time there's loads of things they don't tell eachother.

Alesha has to guess about some of JJ's exploits, and JJ hears about Alesha's expulsion from someone else (and she never goes into details about what she and Miss Merfield are up to). JJ's story made the ending bittersweet.

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Overall, though this book has anything but a happy subject, it is a feelgood story. Alesha's struggling for survival and you're rooting for her to grasp at the opportunity given to her to escape a life of crime and misery. At some points, the feelgood vibes got a bit too clichéd for my tastes, For instance,

in the scene where miss Merfield told Alesha she failed her piano exams and her teacher told her not to give up and she passed her next exams. All so Alesha could realise she shouldn't give up either.

(show spoiler)

though overall the story balanced nicely between the happy ending we're all hoping for and Alesha's struggles to break free of her old world and her old way of thinking.

Another minor point I did not like was the few times the author switched to phonetic writing to convey accents and dialects. I've a personal dislike to it, as I always struggle to read what it's supposed to mean. I don't think the effect of the book or the writing would be any less if those few (and they were luckily very few) lines of dialect would have been written normally. Now I had to skip those lines as it was impossible for me to decode - I have no frame of reference how people with those accents talk, so there's no way for me to read what is written there. Those minor points is why the book is a four star instead of a five star book for me. I'm definitely interested in checking out the other works of this author, as she's clearly a very capable writer who's able to convey the voice and experiences of someone so very different from the reader in such a convincing way.