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on 12 October 2013
Originally published on Serendipity Reviews.
This book has to be one of the most upsetting books I have ever read. In fact I think it broke my heart. I couldn't read it continually, because I found myself getting emotional every time I picked it up, so I would have to mix it up with a lighter book.

The story looks closely at the forgotten victims; the children who grew up in abusive households, only to reach a point where intervention is the final answer. I don't know about you,but when I consider children who have been fostered or adopted, I like to think their lives have improved. But I've never once considered the time bomb they might carry around inside them, which inevitably shows it's face as they mature.

Every child normally resembles a member of their family, which becomes more evident as they reach adulthood. Imagine looking just like the person who made your childhood a living nightmare. When you see the monster that scared you half to death, looking back at you in the mirror - how do you escape them? How do you stop becoming just like them? These are the questions that define Eddie's future.

I loved Eddie. He left his unhappy childhood, majorly unscathed and seemed to go through life, gathering strength with each new year. Until he discovers who his real father is and that's where his world unravels. I found myself shouting at his adopted family for not seeing what was going on. On the outside, Eddie seemed to be happy. He didn't dwell on the past, so his parents felt they had nothing to worry about - and yet Eddie was drinking what ever he could lay his hands on.

I really liked the format of the book. It is told from multiple view points, so you get a full view of how Eddie grew up and changed. I'd never even considered what it must be like for children to be adopted and know that they are, but I did feel this book gave an excellent portrayal of situations like this.

This is a very dark tale, but also a very real one. To say I enjoyed it, would be the wrong thing to say. The best way to describe the book is to say that it spoke to me on an emotional level.

A hard hitting, reality read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 September 2013
Anne Fine's latest book is a compelling read, and I was engrossed in the story for a few days. The story revolves around Eddie, and begins with Eddie and his mother being rescued from a flat, where they had been kept prisoner for several years.
Eddie embarks on a new life through the care system and although life is a struggle for him, Eddie ends up being cared for by some loving people. Later in the book, Eddie's life takes a downward turn when he makes a discovery about his family history.
The novel is told by Eddie and various other people involved in his life. Both the characters and storyline are believable and the story moves along at a good pace.
The deep issues explored in this novel means that it is not an easy read and I was thinking about it for ages after I had finished it. I think it would be ideal for a book group to read, as there is lots to discuss. Amongst other things, it raises interesting debate about family history and whether genes determine how we turn out, or can we determine our own fate.
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on 13 December 2014
As I started to read this novel I feared I was embarking on one of those awful misery stories which are so unaccountably popular these days. But I had no need to worry. There are many dark moments in the story, but there is also humour and there are wonderfully moving episodes which will bring tears to many an eye.

Eddie is, as the story begins, a seven year-old boy who has spent four years imprisoned in a horribly sordid flat with his mother, Lucy, and a thug of the worst order called Bryce Harris. Harris goes out. Lucy and Eddie are not allowed to leave the flat. They are required to stay in behind locked doors and instructed never to allow anyone in. When Harris returns to the flat he assaults Lucy, treating her as a punch bag. But, rather cleverly, he resists the temptation to beat the boy.

A neighbour realises that a child is imprisoned in the flat. She writes to the Social Services. They ignore her early letters but, eventually, notice is taken. The police raid the flat, sensibly waiting for Harris to be out. Eddie and his mother are rescued. And so we start to follow Eddie's life away from Harris.

By a remarkable stroke of luck a previous tenant of the flat had left thirty video tapes of an old Canadian children's television programme featuring a man called Mr Perkins. Eddie and his mother watched them avidly, whenever Harris was away. Mr Perkins provided Eddie with endless information about the outside world. When Eddie escapes his dreadful ordeal he is not nearly as damaged as one would expect. All the credit for that must be given to Mr Perkins.

But life is not all perfect for Eddie. Those horrific four years have left their mark on him. Anne Fine takes us through the next ten or so years of his life in a beautifully sensitive way. It would be quite wrong of me to tell you how things work out in the end. But, on the journey, we laugh and cry with Eddie. We come across several fully formed characters, real people with virtues and faults, who play their part in making Eddie what he finally becomes.

The book was a delightful read, and has the enormous advantage, these days, of not being too long.

I recommend it.

Charles
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Powerful. Upsetting. Inspiring.

A heart-breaking opening. Seven-year-old Eddie is rescued by a neighbour raising the alarm after seeing his pale face kept indoors for three years. Forced into captivity by his mother's partner, Eddie and his mother emerge into the world damaged in different ways. Initially seeming resilient, Eddie copes with foster and adoptive families, learning how to socialise with other children, attends his first school. Only several years later as a teenager does he start to question his relationship to his gaoler, and if violence can be inherited. And starts to go off the rails...

I heard of Anne Fine's latest book and thought I'd stand clear, based on the stark subject matter. But the Carnegie nomination prompted me to give it a go. I found it wasn't as hard-going as I'd anticipated. I even read it on audiobook and it flew by, I listened to it all in two days. Excellent narration from Jack Hawkins.

Eddie is a child you want to protect, smart but broken, brought up by fear and Mr Perkins videotapes (found in his prison home and watched over and over, educational shows that give him long-standing morals and knowledge). His transformation into troubled teen is all too real and understandable as he experiments with different ways of blocking his worries and drowning himself in his despair. I was reminded of Melvin Burgess's 'Junk' in some parts as the inevitable chemical dependence begins.

It's hard-hitting at times. The structure is excellent, as Eddie is only one of many narrators. Anyone who has been involved in his life speaks up. The nosey neighbour who spotted his face and informed the police about him, the social workers and policemen who rescue him, his foster and adoptive parents, new sister Alice, teachers, all add their voice to his story. It adds depth to his tale and makes it fly by.

Beautifully written, a subject you may want to steer clear of, but a story that ultimately shows that, in the end, we can control our own lives and must take responsibility for them.
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on 1 September 2014
This book grabbed my attention immediately from the first page. It made me cry when seven year old Eddie had to leave Linda and her husband's house. They were so kind to him. But, of course they were only foster carers, not permanent adopters so he had to leave. I never really connected with his new parents, but I did like Alice, his new sister who had also been adopted.

This book made me weep with sorrow for little Eddie, an although I didn't feel too sorry for him towards the end, I did sympathize with how hard it must've been to live normal life with his past. I almost cried at the end. It was like the end of his journey and I missed everyone who had helped him along the way, especially Rob, his first social worker.

As a thirteen year old reader, I enjoyed this book. I'm quite an advanced reader but I would recommend it as adult fiction, maybe fifteen and up. But I enjoyed it. Eddie felt so real to me!
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on 6 May 2015
This book is one of the best I have ever read. I think a lot of people can relate to the characters and really understand where they are coming from. It is written from each character's view points which really makes the book different. It is mostly based around what the main character, Eddie, has learnt throughout his life from his family to Mr Perkins, a person who has so much influence on choices and decisions in Eddie's life but is never really found out about. I would recommend this book to teenagers as it is about a more grown up topic but anyone over the age of 18 would find it brilliant too.
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on 23 August 2013
I read this book in one sitting and have been thinking about the characters and situations long after I had finished the book. Always a sign of a good book.
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on 22 February 2014
I , like other reviewers, feel that this book could make very good reading group material, or even guided reading for students aged perhaps 14 plus, given the storyline and the different perspectives of various participants. However, many teens may identify with Eddie even without the background as many teens may self destruct for different reasons! It didn't enthrall me and I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to recommend it, but felt it was a good enough read with an interesting theme.
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on 19 April 2014
A great start which pulls the reader straight in to Eddie's world. I found the second half of the novel, where Eddie is struggling to settle in his adoptive home a little protracted, but I would highly recommend this book as an alternative to the 'terminal illness/organ transplant' genre of much fashionable young adult fiction.
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on 8 November 2013
An excellent read for young adults and adults alike. Along the lines of Room by Emma Donaghue, this book takes the theme on, to show us the possible effects of imprisonment, neglect and abuse. Well-written and engaging with characters to care about. Another winner by this fabulous author!
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