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The story centres upon the two main characters, Jem, a young boy of fourteen and Katrina, a social worker and each chapter is seen either through the eyes of Jem or Katrina. You know straight away that Jem’s situation isn’t what it should be; he is a caring young lad trying desperately to look after his family because his mother is ‘ill’. The situation escalates from a bad situation to worse and the social services are brought in, where we meet Katrina.
One can’t help wondering about this woman, who is the best social worker in her office but it seems that essentially it’s because she doesn’t care. But does she? The story surrounding her unfolds in an interesting way.
I am not into giving spoilers in my reviews but I will say that I have worked in child care and have myself written a book based around it. Ms Spencer shows that she has great understanding of the complexities of addiction and the consequences of bad situations in childhood affecting the adults that those children grow up into. However, don’t get the idea this is heavy reading, it’s very far from it. It gripped me from the beginning and found it hard to put down; these characters evoked tender feelings in me as they played their roles. I rather loved the boy nick-named ‘Spooky’ and I do wonder how many children are so injured by the thoughtlessness of the people who are supposed to love and care for them. I have known and worked with children like him – and loved them too. Spooky needed someone who cared, and in Jem he found someone who did, and likewise Jem was the recipient of caring and help from his friend in the only ways Spooky could provide. This friendship touched my heart.
This book is, I feel, a triumph and should be read by lots more people. Thank you for this inspiring story, Barbara Spencer.
I liked the chapter headers - giving your the perspective of different characters.
Jen has a tough life and it was quite a dramatic story, and heartfelt, when he has to grow up quite quickly, like many young kids these days in broken families.
At the heart of everything this story is about the strength of family despite the inequities of systems, tragedies of life etc.
A good read
Although this novel is targeted Adult readership, its topic of family breakdown and insight into struggle and disadvantage deserves to bring in a wider readership, including young adults as well as teachers, social workers and general readers (I loved the novel).
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