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on 17 March 2017
A very touching portrayal of a young girl growing up with a serious heart condition that means her life is likely to be very short. Ann Kelley's portrayal of the detail of the natural world is poetic and charming. It really brings the story to life and give a strong sense of optimism A wonderful read..
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on 5 March 2008
This is one of the most beautiful and evocative novels I have read in a long time. Gussie's honesty and naivity, her simple desire to live her life to the full, is powerful and captivating. She is precocious and engaging. This is a worthy winner of the Costa Children's Award, but do not be put off, this is a book that will appeal to adults and children a like. Gussie's narrative voice shows a candour that would spark a smile in any hardened grown-up. I think Gussie's zest for life can teach many people a thing or two about living.
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on 17 October 2007
I was attracted to this little book by the grainy, almost melancholy monochrome cover - the sea and a lowering sky - and then noted the recommendation by Helen Dunmore. I'm a fan of Helen Dunmore so decided to see what was inside.

I liked the writing - poetic, with beautiful descriptions. For instance, on the first page of Chapter One, 'The lights of the little town are twinkling below me, and there is a nearly full moon - its blue-white wedding veil draped across the bay.' I love descriptions like that, so I bought the book.

The narrator is Gussie Stevens, a twelve-year suffering from a congenital heart condition from which she will die unless she undergoes major surgery - a heart/lung transplant. But will the organs become available in time? It sounds morbid and depressing, and nearly put me off buying the book, but it isn't like that at all. It's a gem of a book, bright, positive, and amusing. As Helen Dunmore says, Gussie is a wonderful character. She has an infectious zest for life (although at times I wondered if she seemed rather more mature and better informed than a twelve-year-old would be). And in the early chapters I began to wonder if her interactions with her three cats and their interactions with each other were going to become rather tedious. But they didn't. Gussie's observations on her mother's new relationship, on her parents' failed relationship, on the beautiful, flirty girl who seems to have attracted Gussie's own special friend Brett, and on life in general, are a delight to read. I really felt I knew her, and it seemed very important that she live.

There isn't really a storyline, it's more a snapshot of a few months in a short lifetime and Gussie flits from subject to subject, sometimes veering off at a tangent, but she comes back to her point in the end. This all adds to the feeling that you are sitting listening to Gussie chattering, rather than reading a book.

The book was marred, in my view, only by one tiny factual niggle that jarred, making me stop and check that I had not misread the offending words. Towards the end of the book, Gussie refers to 'Mum's Concise Oxford Dictionary (it's huge and you can't read the words without a magnifier).' She must surely be referring to the Complete OED, the version reduced in size so that the twenty volumes fit into two, and sold with a magnifying glass? Although a very minor niggle, it spoilt the thread for several pages and lingered at the back of my mind.

If you like an exciting fast-paced adventure then this is probably not for you. But if you like a descriptive, character-driven tale you should give this a try. I loved it!
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on 2 February 2014
I found this quite by accident when browsing, clicked on the sample, read a couple of pages and just had to buy it on the spot so I could carry on reading! It's a quite delightful book; the diary of a young girl waiting for a heart transplant, but oh so much more than that. The heart story makes it more poignant, but in the end it is not about heart disease, it is the portrait of the girl which makes the book such a gripping and enjoyable read. So many delightful observations, reflections, self-examinations and also wonderful descriptions of nature. Written with a light touch, but not a light-weight book at all - it has a lot of meaning. Definitely deserved its Costa prize.
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on 11 February 2015
Ann Kelley does it again as Gussie grows up before our eyes and shares her life and loves with us through her charming narrative. I was there with Gussie and her family and friends as she enters adolescence and comes nearer to her much awaited transplant. I walked the streets of 1990 St Ives with her, heard the seagulls, met her neighbours, shared her hopes and dreams... Again I was left wanting more at the end of this book and was delighted to discover yet another book available (Inchworm) which I can't wait to start.
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on 9 February 2014
The voice of the young narrator, Gussie, is compelling and convincing. What a full life she leads, mentally and emotionally as she waits for the desperately-needed lung-and-heart transplant. I've got to find he next book!
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on 19 February 2014
Lovely use of English; realistic story - you are right in the mind of that little girl and marvel at her pragmatism.
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on 17 February 2014
I loved this story from the young girl's point of view. It is one that will stay with me for a long time.
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on 23 June 2016
Beautiful gem of a book. Love it!
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on 7 June 2009
Can't say anything that the other reviewers haven't said - this book is wonderful. Buy it!
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