Once Bad Intentions Paperback – 6 Jan 2014
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About the Author
Monique Dixon was born and raised in south-east London. Once Bad Intentions is her début novel. She has contributed to Brown Eyes, Sexual Attraction Revealed and Hair Power Skin Revolution anthologies. She graduated from The University of the Arts London in 2002, and works in the advertising & marketing technology sector in a commercial capacity. Monique still resides in London with her family. For more information, visit: www.moniquedixon.com.
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The heroine is avid diarist Stephanie Johnson, a bright, sensitive but volatile girl with great potential who is easily sucked into local gang culture, principally because of issues with her mother and, by extension, the rest of her family and friends. It is not a tale of relentless, unthinking brutality, though, as for once we see some basically good young people – Stephanie, her siblings, compatriots, boyfriends – who have become trapped in a pointless vortex of violence and despair but who at heart wish to escape and make something worthwhile of their lives before they end up in prison or the cemetery. OBI is a familiar and well-trodden story of reluctant misdeeds carried out by a young individual who lacks only guidance, and their search for redemption. However, the characterisation is so truthful, and the problems so unpredictable or emotional, that it is hard not to get personally involved as the whole unhappy mess escalates, leaving you desperate to cry out advice and encouragement.
I have read so many novels that purport to depict urban London life at its most raw but which rarely do so convincingly, and yet here the author manages the task with enviable ease where so many lauded professionals fail miserably. I don’t think that it’s just a case of a bitter individual recounting their miserable past in voyeuristic detail or cathartically emptying out their soul (if indeed that is the case) in fictional form, but is simply first rate, high quality, clear and honest writing at its very best. One of the finest of its type I’ve read for a long time but I hope it won’t be a ‘one-hit’ novel.
Narrative is initially difficult to follow as it is full of Jamaican patois and slang, but author Monique Dixon skilfully uses this to develop an authentic portrayal of the places and times, and it adds to the tension of her writing. If not a credibility gap - there is certainly a comprehension gap, especially for readers cocooned from urban deprivation and despair. It is difficult to take in the reality described by Monique Dixon, and perhaps there is too much emphasis on an obsession with designer gear plus casual attitudes to how this is obtained mainly via shop-lifting. With her dysfunctional upbringing, her disenfranchisement from society, and with her ferocious fighting, mugging etc. it appears Stephanie is immune to violence and beyond redemption - but the objective for `Once Bad Intentions', whatever early bad intentions there may be, is the option for Stephanie to be compelled to discover something else. However it is much more than a `coming of age' story - it is transformation from marginalised London gang culture to conforming member of humankind - but alongside the triumph there is tragedy. `Once Bad Intentions' is an eye-opener, and hopefully it can inspire challenges to identity and encourage moving on from whatever and however heinous the background.
Vivid images and sounds delicately a precisely composed to bring back memories of growing up in London in the 90s.
Throughout it reminded me of so much of my childhood and teen years,
Reminded me of how trivial I once was
Reminded me of how close I once felt to my friends, and how damaging some of those friendships could be.
Reminded me of those that cared for me more than I cared to acknowledge
Reminded me of the Grandparents, and the wisdom that age brings
Reminded me of how some decisions cannot be undone
A trip down memory lane, they just happen to be Stephanie’s memories, not mine. But there was something collective about those memories. With warmth and strength they jumped out of the pages and embraced me.
Being a slow and dyslexic reader I expected this novel to take quite some time to read, but once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down again
This story spoke to me on so many levels, and left me with so much more to think about.
Awaiting a follow up for Monique Dixon - a very talented writer.