Top positive review
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Makes you think, makes you cry and ultimately makes you hope
on 16 December 2011
Billy Finn's been in care for most of his life - taken from a mother who battled alcohol abuse problems and a step-father who physically abused him. He hates the "scummers" (social workers) who sell him lies and platitudes, hates his mother for giving him up for adoption, hates the couple who wanted to adopt him without understanding him, hates school for giving up on him, hates himself for being unable to articulate all the anger inside him. Although he lashes out at the other lifers in his care home and at the carers there - particularly the Colonel, Ronnie, who constantly sticks his nose into Billy's business - he keeps himself together around his twin brother and sister, Louie and Lizzie, determined that they won't lose out in the same way he has.
Then Billy's mother, Annie, decides that she wants the twins back, leaving Billy devastated.
The more he tries to keep himself together for their sake, the more he threatens to fall apart. But then he meets Daisy. A lifer like him, he finds himself drawn to her, experiencing a genuine connection for the first time only to find that Daisy has secrets of her own, which can cost him everything ...
Phil Earle's debut novel is an extraordinary, powerful and unpatronising look at the life of teenagers in care. This is no liberal apology for the disadvantaged - what makes it such an excellent read is that Billy is a completely flawed and damaged person, lashing out at people and property for the sake of releasing the anger within him, even though it ultimately hurts him more. Demotivated at school because he's not been there enough to keep up with the work, utterly cynical about the social workers and aware of their fear of him and what he's capable of, he's wonderfully brought to life on the page, frustrating and heart breaking in equal measure. His relationships with Daisy and Ronnie are well depicted and I loved the scenes with him and the twins - the only people he really loves enough to change for.
The f-bomb gets used in the text but it's not gratuitous. If anything, I would have liked to see it more, if only because kids like Billy tend to use it as punctuation.
All in all, this was a wonderful contemporary story that makes you think, makes you cry and ultimately makes you hope.