There are three things running parallel in Candy. First is the prostitute's heroin addiction as Brooks deals fiercely with drugs on the streets of London. Second is Joe's addiction to the prostitute for who she is. Third is the reader's addiction to Brooks's passionate telling of brutality combined with love.
Brooks smoothed over my doubts about Candy about four-fifths of the way through the book, with the phrase: "But then - what did I know? I'd never been addicted to anything. I didn't have a clue how it felt." Up to then, as a cautious teen in a comfy armchair, I had rapidly disassociated myself (much to my regret) from the situation of the protagonist. But now I appreciated that although I had never been there, Brooks had forced me to believe that his boy Joe had faded into the cruel, slummy world of drugs and prostitution from just such a normal life as mine. Scarily convincing.
Ten Sorry Tales by Mick Jackson (FABER £9.99)
These varied, creative and entertaining stories are surely set to charm the Playstations off youngsters nation-wide. Jackson tells of terrifying incidents - a female mass murderer a few pages away from an ever-sleeping boy - which seem less than fitting for his target audience. But the elegance and stylised wit with which he innocently spins his yarns certainly worked its magic on me.
A group of undertakers has a mission to deliver a certain coffin to a burial ground in time for the service. The simple idea is that the suited men step out to row the box across a river. The effect of a wise old man telling stories around the fire: "A 'hearse' is basically a large black car for ferrying dead people from one place to another.". This Wise Old Man has a twinkle in his eye.
Get Real By Mimi Thebo (HARPERCOLLINS £9.99)
It's mean to use the title of a work of fiction as ammunition, but Thebo should "Get Real" in her attempt to throw real teenagers into her light-heartedly executed plot. The story is good although fairly unoriginal: a boy from a filthy rich family wishes to make it big on the football field. His "usual" life is hampered by a suspected kidnap threat posed to himself and his siblings. The excitement pumped about as much adrenaline through my veins as a slow dripping tap, and I was unconvinced by the image Thebo attempted to conjure up of a boy "not quite 13" scaring off two drug dealers on bikes.
Using the word "stupider" in a published work of teen fiction is sure to encourage bad English among her readers; the author chooses to do so under the assumption that this is the only way her readers will empathise. I beg to differ, Ms Thebo, and this is but one example of the patronisation throughout the book.
The Wrong Hands by Nigel Richardson (OXFORD £12.99)
Outsider Graham Sinclair is used to being treated like a weirdo - he has "unusual hands" - but when the 14-year-old rescues a baby from a burning aeroplane, everything changes and he becomes the object of fascination to the gutter press.
Richardson's delightfully unsubtle invention of "The Moon" tabloid newspaper drew such entertaining parallels with the publication's real counterpart that at times it felt to me to be the main focus behind the plot. The children's literary world has on its (rather less exciting) hands a hugely entertaining story, requiring rather more thought than first meets the eye.
Divided City by Theresa Breslin (DOUBLEDAY £10.99)
My hours spent reading this were profitable ones. Between the covers lies a dynamic plot, yet most importantly for me (and, indeed selfishly), a personal education. The novel deals with the divide between Glasgow's great football teams, Celtic and Rangers, and the issues that lie behind it. Joe, a Catholic, was certainly not brought up to mix with the likes of fellow Glaswegian Graham - a Protestant and Rangers supporter by upbringing. The boys are brought together by the same factor that underlines the divide - love of football. When it falls upon them to help an illegal refugee within their city, they rise nobly to the opportunity, showing excellently the unbreakable bond created by human nature, regardless of the backgrounds of the boys. Though a powerful work of fiction, Divided City sheds a great deal of light on to a true situation. The breaks between short chapters are part of the empathy Breslin shows for her reader, allowing for maximum thought and digestion.
Riding Tycho by Jan Mark (MACMILLAN £9.99)
What it looks like is another hyped-up dolphin adventure, and what it isn't is hyped. The plot is unsupported by an annoyingly bland writing style that did very little to hold my eyes to the page. It's the story of a young girl, Demetria, who lives on an island where life is strictly disciplined, with basic roles for males and females and no knowlege of any other existence (namely one involving electricity, anything that flies and most everyday nouns). Political prisoners occupy the Island in force, staying as "guests" with the families. Demetria forms a forbidden friendship with one of the men and so is introduced to the possibility of life outside their confined living space. It's an interesting story - however, strong concentration is a must!
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