I have to confess I'm not a teen reader, but bought this because I'm interested in the subject matter. However, I soon got into the story and was eager to find out what would happen next. It seems to me that this has everything - spies, spivs, burgeoning love, parents with problems, all wrapped up seamlessly in one story. Rachel Pearse is an unusual and memorable character with her passion for numbers,as is Paul Gabriel - 'the good boy turned bad'. The period flavour is also very nicely done. I think this would make a good discussion book in schools or for a Teen book club as it raises various moral questions in a way that isn't heavy-handed or preachy.
With her mother in hospital and her father imprisoned on the Isle of Mannn, fourteen-year-old Rachel is left very much to her own devices (apart from the friendship of her kindly neighbour, "Mrs. H, whose husband is imprisoned in a concentration camp). Living in London during the Blitz, Rachel encounters all kinds of dangers, from bombs and falling masonry to the dark underworld inhabited by the deeply unpleasant Mr. O'Leary and his vicious dog, and battles with a myriad unanswered questions. Is Paul, the young man who befriends her, really the villain the police think he is? What is the connection between Paul and O'Leary? What exactly has her father done, to deserve his punishment? And perhaps most important of all, will she and her family get through the war alive?
The novel is set against a backdrop of bombs and sirens, the dust of ruined buildings and the sound of falling debris, with instant death always just around the corner. In the course of the novel, Rachel develops from an innocent schoolgirl into a young woman with responsibilites, and experiences the first stirrings of adult love.
This book would do much to help young readers to feel what it was like to live in London during the second world war, besides being a thoroughly enjoyable read. Highly recommended.
on 28 January 2014
This is a really good read - only took me two sittings! The characters are really well drawn, and the setting is very atmospheric and feels authentic. As a primary headteacher, I've read my fair share of war related literature, but this is amongst the best - a page turner whilst retaining a sense of realism, which would prompt plenty of discussion (given the opportunity). It's accessible to all, with topical references explained.