Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 1106
A hardscrabble life
Overall rating
Writing Style
This is a starkly honest novel about a 15-year-old named Jon who lives a hopeless and bleak existence on the edge of society. He has no hope and no conscience; stealing and roughing up younger kids barely causes a flicker of thought. He doesn't see any alternatives to his hardscrabble way of life. Now, this could turn into a novel of hope, like a lot of books do. A story where the lead character learns a lesson about his evil ways, or through some great epiphany, finds a way to live a better life. The back copy suggests that might be the case: "Jon wants to survive. Once he finds Jimmy and Paul, he realizes he can take control." Yes, it could be that type of novel. But it isn't.

While Jon does claw his way up to a bit more stability, this novel is too honest to paint too rosy colored a picture at the end of the book. Jon doesn't find a compelling teacher that makes him decide school is great. He doesn't come into a great deal of money. He and his mother don't fall into a Leave It to Beaver pattern. That's what makes this an interesting novel. Jon is lost, but so are the adults -- those who'd like to help him and those who could care less. It's an all too-common story, no matter what side of the big pond you are on (the story is set in England).

While I didn't love all of the writer's style and I did trip up a few times on phrases that must be common in England but not here in the States, I recommend this novel for anyone who wants a realistic and gritty look at the life of a down-and-out teenager. Recommended for ages 12 and up, but more preferably 14 and up.
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