The `Dedication' to `Once Bad Intentions' states how destiny may be defined through an individual's own thoughts, actions and desires, and the overt aim is directly to young women growing up amidst violence and poverty. The aim is achieved by telling the story of Stephanie Johnson, a girl of Jamaican origin commencing in September 1993 on her first day at secondary school in Lewisham. It follows her tortuous life through to 2001 with Stephanie showing glimpses of regret as she matures. She confides in a diary in addition to describing experiences and events with her relations, friends and associates during horrific times as part of a broken family suffering misguided religious abuse and brutal beatings, plus predicaments from the ghetto of London council estates plagued by crime, drug-taking, bullying, savage behaviour etc. through to a visionary future. `Once Bad Intentions' is a disturbing book - not for the faint-hearted.
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.
An entertaining read that brings laughter at points and disturbances at other times. ‘A once bad intention’ depicts the woes and struggles for many urbanites around the globe Is skilfully written in a way where the reader becomes a fly on the wall into the life of Stephanie through her diary entries. It’s not the best of starts for her, a childhood plagued with abuse misguidance and betrayal. We are invited to witness it all.... the violent action packed scenes, the turbulent family relationships, the close bond of her friendships, the dangers of her love interests and her attachment to the urban streets. Although Stephanie is no innocent party and has contributed and done many wrongs you can’t help but fall in love with her from her girlie love of fashion, to her honest and frank accounts with herself to her remorse I found myself rooting for her fight to change her life and improve it. We have front row seat as she strives to make peace with her past and step to a future decided by her, which makes for a very compelling read.
This is a gripping story depicting the growing up and character evolution of an independently-minded, rebellious young girl in the district of Peckham, London in the 1990's. The book is narrated in the first person, with brutal honesty, by the heroine, Steph, who is twelve when we first meet her. In an authentically juvenile voice, the author conveys all the flightiness of the youthful diary notations that found the basis for the early narrative. The central core deals with the alienation between a violent mother and wilful daughter, both trying to pursue different agendas and personal credos and this conflict is communicated really well.
The storyline feels authentic and it carries moments of high emotional impact. The language evolves in concert with Steph's own development and, in the latter part, some turns of phrase were lyrical and even poetic.
Monique Dixon employs heavy patois to lend credibility and a definite flavour, although it was a little difficult to follow for someone from outside that particular culture. However, the author's knack for depicting action, especially the violent episodes, effectively draws the reader into the cultural ambiance of her family and her world. As the protagonist ages, the narrative becomes more ordered and logical, and the descriptions and insights, more mature. But it is the final quarter that sees the author flex her literary muscle and fully display her talent for gripping tension and graphic action scenes.
My criticism, and the reason for docking a star, is the book's somewhat uneven pacing and the fact that I found the early part less compelling than the last quarter of the book. Also some of the minor supporting cast could have been better fleshed out, as well as places and locations, to allow the reader to become fully immersed in the dangerous world Steph and her friends inhabit, although from the midpoint on, the action was so gripping that the sketchiness of some of the descriptions became a minor consideration.
Despite my early difficulty with the dialect, I am glad I persevered because Steph's far from unique story was very well told and the redemptive element was very compelling. The message that human willpower can prevail over circumstances, however unfavourable, is one that elevates this story to a universal level.
I really loved this book. It was not only interesting and insightful but the writing style and language is very much a part of the underground world the main characters are a part of, yet the author works hard to keep the worldly reader up to speed with terminologies so the book remains a universal read. There are unexpected twists and turns that keep the pages turning.
The writer explores topics like bullying, gang violence and mental illness from an honest, realistic and poignant place that makes it digestible and easier to understand. I highly recommend this book. It's filled with tension, is beautifully written, and provides a basis for understanding the survival traits of some forgotten members of our society.
I was completely engrossed with the protagonist journey and her ability to craft out a positive path for herself despite the abuse at home that led to her violent tendencies. Stephanie Johnson proves that no matter what cards you are dealt with in life, ultimately life becomes about choices, taking responsibility for them and therefore taking ownership of the outcomes to those choices. Brilliant! I would definitely recommend this book.
This was a gripping read from start to finish, providing an eye-opening glimpse into a part of society that is often marginalised and reviled. The author's depiction of Stephanie feels authentic, and even though her journey is sometimes dark, the book is ultimately one about redemption and is beautifully written.