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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 July 2014
Tony's girlfriend has just left him, telling him that he's socially inept. He is left in charge of her three rescued ex-battery hens. He decided to fill the hollow in his life by offering to join a mentoring scheme and befriending Justin, a young man in care. We begin to see parallels between Tony's and Justin's lives and watch as Justin takes himself rapidly off the rails. One aspect I particularly enjoyed was Tony's emails to his ex in which he tells her the highs and lows of his relationship with Justin. He saves them all to a file because she has told him that if he contacts her she'll just change her email account. It’s like having an invisible person in the story.

I loved the interplay of characters here. Tony has his eye on the girl who runs the mentoring courses. As the story progresses he gets his life together and learns social skills and this is wonderfully observed and recorded. I read this book in just a couple of days because the characters came alive for me and I felt I needed to know the outcome. This is a great story and quite different from the author's previous work. I do love to see versatility in an author and Julie McLaren demonstrates it brilliantly.
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on 24 July 2015
I really enjoyed this book. It is at times cringeworthy and challenging following the lives of "socially inept" Tony and his troubled teen mentor Jordan. I found myself willing Tony on, almost crossing my fingers for positive outcomes!
Full of twists and fantastically portrayed characters, Julie never lets the reader down. I am looking forward to reading more of her work!
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on 12 October 2014
'Chickens' is narrated by Tony, who mentors Jordan, a young boy struggling to survive the care system. The author uses a conversational style which is deceptively simple. The book starts slowly and builds layer upon layer until we are no longer sure who is more damaged; the person mentoring or the person being mentored. I cared deeply for both.

I’d predicted the outcomes early on; oh how wrong I was! In a remarkable display of clever writing, hinting at but never explicitly telling until the very end, I was bowled over by the closing pages, which pack a powerful punch.
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on 6 September 2015
Tony is devasted when, after almost 2 years, Rachel splits up with him. She leaves him their three chickens to care for. Lonely and isolated, Tony learns of a mentoring scheme starting for children in care aged between 12 and 16 which, after much consideration, he volunteers for. But dealing with a troubled teen is not easy and talking about chickens breaks the ice. Tony has his own troubled past though and when problems start he finds himself being drawn further back to his own past with devastating results.
A really good story, very easy to read. 5 stars.
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on 7 May 2016
This novel builds from start to finish. The characters had depth , I was rooting for both to succeed .This was a realistic depiction of the failures of chaotic lifestyles and how social carers are overwhelmed by the emotional needs of victims . A twist in the tale .
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on 17 May 2016
A different story here. Wasn't sure when I started reading it but actually couldn't put it down. Thoroughly enjoyed it and was disappointed when it ended. Recommended.
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on 2 January 2015
This is not a warm cosy read, but an excellent challenging and thought-provoking one.

Jordan is in care with a troubled past and difficult present. Tony is the slightly dysfunctional individual who becomes Jordan's mentor. As the story progresses and pulls you in, Tony's mundane existence which revolves around his job, his unwanted chickens and his flat, now as empty as his life after the departure of his girlfriend, begins to unravel.

His own past is coming back to bite him.

With both main characters I sea-sawed between sympathy and frustration, but they were always convincing and believable. And the eventual conclusion was totally unexpected, and it is very clever the way the end is not entirely tidied up, just like in real life, sadly.

A great, if not entirely happy read.
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on 7 November 2015
Found the storyline quite hard to follow, but the essence of the book was very intriguing
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on 30 September 2015
Great book, insightful and not what you would expect, or not what I expected. A really stunning ending.
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on 29 September 2014
A very different but just as engaging read to Julie's previous book Deceiving Ellie. The storyline is gritty and uncompromising in its portrayal of the very real but darker side of life. The characters have depth and I was left wanting to know what happened next with both main roles.

It's not often that a book takes me on such an emotional roller coaster; this one took me through sadness, laughter and anger which for me is a very good sign.

I fully recommend this book and have nothing more to say other than "when is the next one being published Julie?!"
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