on 23 December 2013
I had no idea what to expect from Marian's novel, but the blurb captured me, as did the entire book. Compelling, well-crafted, the characters brought to life in a thoughtful manner, oozing the 1970's punk era but managing to bridge the decades into 2013. She understands the teenager`s angst of that time and uncovers those hidden parts of everyday life that determine the direction we go in.
This was the first time I had ventured into eBooks, thinking that the feel of paper was a must, but I was wrong. This had me glued to the iPad, what DID happen to Alex? An unexpected ending made this a winner for me. I can't wait for Marian's next book.
on 13 January 2014
From the first page to the last this book had me hooked. I found the characters really believable and Marian has captured the turmoil of adolescent years with a sympathetic and skillful touch. I enjoyed the contrast between 1970's London and the present day and her writing evoked a nostalgic longing for the summers of my youth where the only obstacles to life were not being found out by your parents! She touches on painful subjects relevant to many teenagers and explores how that might shape and inform our adult lives. Her writing appears deceptively simple but is all the more powerful for it, with not a word wasted. I found this an intriguing and enjoyable read and would definitely recommend it. I await with interest further work from this author
on 7 July 2014
Firstly thank you to Marian for getting in touch with me about possibly reviewing her book. The blurb caught my interest and I'm really glad I agreed after finally getting through some of my teetering TBR pile to read it.
The story is all about main character Beth and her search for her best friend Alex, who has ran away from home in the 70s. After finding her once, Alex goes missing again, this time seemingly for good.
Beth narrates this time flip novel throughout. The story is told between 2013 and the summer in the 70s where it all took place. Present day Beth is in her fifties, 70s Beth is in her mid teens, only beginning to discover everything that life holds for her but the disappearance of her best friend flips her life completely on its head. So don't worry if you think you won't be able to relate to her, having two versions of herself make it really easy to get to know and enjoy her character. The story starts in the present day and gives us a look at Beth's life as it is now.
I didn't like Alex at all from the beginning of the story. I thought she was awful and inconsiderate running away and then putting Beth in the precarious situation she did. By starting the story off in the present day then the whole story unfolding after that, it was more and more obvious how Alex's second disappearance had such a negative impact on Beth's life. It almost felt like Alex didn't care what the consequences were for the people round about her.
In the 70s scenes we go through the motions with Beth, finding Alex after the first time she ran away and then everything that happened in the short time after - her first love, her first taste of independence. I really like Fitz's teenage character and his relationship with Beth. He seemed the polar opposite of Alex in terms of maturity and really seemed to have his head screwed on right.
As the present day story unfolds, chance meetings mean that Beth starts to think about everything that happened once again and we go with her on her journey to confront all of those secrets and face up to the past. I thought the book really picked up pace the further in I read and it was a real page turner waiting to see what was going to happen. Overall a good read from Marian with a cleverly structured story and a developed cast of characters. If you liked this, or the sound of it, you should also check out Yesterday by Sheila Norton.
on 11 October 2014
Sheffield, 1970s. Two seventeen-year-old girls, Beth and Alex are the best of friends. They’re inseparable, until one day Alex goes missing without a trace. Beth is shocked: where did Alex go? Determined to track her down and knowing that Alex must have had her reasons, Beth refuses to help the police. When Beth discovers that Alex has travelled to London with no intention of coming back, she decides she must travel down to pick her up. It is a decision that will change her life.
Looking for Alex is a well-crafted novel by Marian Dillon. A coming of age novel based in Sheffield and London, the story is set both in the 1970 punk-era and the present day. Dillon’s novel is full of contrasts; it pictures what seems a safe middle class environment in the north of England and moves to a dilapitated London suburb where sex and drugs experimentation is rife.
For a brief moment, Beth can see the attraction of living with a bunch of punk squatters and when she meets Fitz life is perfect. But Alex’s boyfriend, squatter Pete has darker motives, preying on the young and vulnerable.
The story shows a ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture of restricted teenage life and ‘free’ adults – and all its consequences. As the past becomes the present, Beth and Alex seem trapped: will they ever be able to reconcile with the past and accept who they have become?
This is Dillon’s first full-length adult novel, having previously written books for children. Dillon’s story is refreshing, well written and to the point.
Dillon convincingly deals with the topics of lost friendships and abusive relationships. Describing the development of two stroppy but forward-looking teenagers into adulthood, with all their dreams and fears, is done with conviction.
Thanks to the timeframe, teenage to adulthood elements and romantic touches, this book reminded me of David Nicholls’ One Day. If you liked this bestseller, you will certainly enjoy Looking for Alex.
Marian Dillon’s second novel is planned to come out later this year.
on 1 March 2014
I really enjoyed this book. It is the first adult fiction from this writer better known for her children’s stories.
The characters come alive in the script and are well drawn, believable and likeable as they come and go in this multi-layered drama.
There is a fascinating plot with lots of twists and turns and surprises along the way with intrigue and suspense and unpredictability all of which keep you turning the pages and wanting to know what happens next.
We realise that there is a mystery about Alex. Gradually the threads untangle and her story becomes clear, The implications and consequences of different relationships become evident and as secrets are revealed the pieces of the jigsaw gradually fit together to make an interesting and complete picture.
The story moves between Sheffield and London both of which the author obviously knows well and describes vividly. It also moves between the 1970s and the present day. The shifts between the two eras do not disrupt the story however but seem to connect with one another seamlessly and the atmosphere and attitudes and values of each are conveyed authentically.
There is a subtlety to the writing in that the author doesn’t explain everything. For example there is a light touch when dipping back into Alex’s childhood which for me at least works better than a detailed account of what exactly occurred. More evident are the insights we perceive regarding the effect of a troubled childhood on the development of the teenager and adult.
I’ll say no more for fear of revealing too much about the story! Do buy it, read it and enjoy.
on 8 January 2014
This book grabbed my attention from the first paragraph and I found it difficult to put down. The intriguing and well-paced storyline flips between present day and the late 70s with each time handled very evocatively. It is really well-written with clever descriptions of surroundings and everyday items. The personalities of the main characters pop off the page and there are lots of vividly portrayed emotions uncovered as the plot unwinds to its conclusion. A very good read - I am certainly keen to read more from Marian.
on 30 April 2014
Just finished Looking for Alex and loved it! The tone of the piece is earthy and real – the sights, sounds and thoughts are subtly yet eloquently expressed in a manner which places the reader right in the heart of it all. I was particularly impressed by the author’s ability to seamlessly transition between the attitudes and realities of life in the late seventies, to that of the grinding present, and back again. The evolution of the main character, Beth, occurs through a masterfully interwoven series of past and present realities, giving the reader the sense that, while fully an adult, she still wholeheartedly embraces the rose-colored wishes and remembrances of her colorful yet heartbreaking past.
Interactions between characters are authentic to the point of making one squirm sympathetically, yet the angst among them is deftly handled and not overplayed. Individual characters are precisely that, individual. Stereotypes and generalizations are notably absent, which is a refreshing find in work that is a bit of a social commentary.
Marian Dillon weaves a tender tale of the joys and pains of life, love and loyalty that makes for a “don’t want to put it down” read. Take it to the pool, read it on the bus, seclude yourself in the tub – it’s one not to be missed.
on 15 June 2014
This book sounded really intriguing, so was really happy when I was accepted on Netgalley.
This book flits between two times, the present day and then the 70's, when Alex went missing from her hometown. I think the present day bits to start with were a bit dull, but picked up as the story went on. Whereas I found the parts set in the 70’s really interesting and vibrant the whole way through the book. I thought the setting of the book was really good and really well set, it was easy to imagine what it was like in the squat.
I really liked a lot of the characters from the past Jenny and Michael were delightful, I would love to know them in real life. I also really liked Celia, I didn't think for a second she was jealous of Alex, protective over what she knew about Pete. Of course I hated Pete from the outset.
Regarding the main characters, I liked both Alex and Beth, but I wanted to knock their heads together at times. Of course, looking in from the outside this is easier said than done.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, but found it quite a slow read during the present time period. However, as mentioned above, the vibrancy of the parts set in the past more than make up for this. I will definitely be checking out Marian’s books in the future.
on 14 August 2014
Anyone who has had a significant person in their past, with whom they have since lost contact, will be stirred by this book, which depicts a woman of middle years suddenly confronted with a spectre from her mis-spent youth. The man who steps into her 'mature' life was on the fringes of an exciting and disturbing period in Beth's life, and now, a couple of decades, a marriage and son later, she finds herself face to face with her first love while trying to find the elusive 'Alex' of the title. In fact the quest to re-connect with the 'best buddy' of her teenage years ends up being more of an excuse for Beth to explore and question her own emotions, and most importantly those of her long lost lover, Fitz. The plot draws you along, back and forth from the '70's to the present, sharing the memories of post flower-power hippy-dom, eager to see in whose arms Beth will end up. I read it in two sittings.
on 5 April 2016
It is the summer of 1977.
Beth and Alex and inseparable.
They are together almost 24 hours a day.
Then, all of a sudden Alex runs away from home.
She is 17 years old.
A missing person report is filed, but Beth has a feeling there must be a reason for her running.
Alex is in London, and Beth finds her there, and is determined to take Alex back home with her.
The Alex she finds is not the Alex she has known all her life
The characters are so well drawn I found it easy to warm to them.
I loved the time setting - 1970's and ending in 2013 was brilliant and worked so well within the story.
And the way the author treats the topics of teen life and relationships and abusive relationships is excellent.
A great look at teen angst and growing up.
I loved this book and recommend it