I know I say this a lot but it’s difficult to know what to say about this book. I genuinely loved it to bits. The story is enthralling and very real. Although grim in places, it always holds out hope which is realized in the end (I don’t think I’m giving anything away in saying that).
Given Jay was brought up on an estate in the east end of London, I had a lot of difficulty accepting how naïve he is. However, he’s very engaging and I was totally rooting for him. He’s a genuinely nice person doing the best he can with what he has. Sasha, on the other hand, can hardly be called naïve. He’s a deliciously complex character who at times seems irredeemable; but despite everything thrown at him he manages to find an inner strength that brings him through, even though he’s being dragged by the foot over fire to get there.
It’s difficult to read about the things Sasha goes through, but I think it’s a realistic picture of a young drug addict living on the streets- what they will go through to get drugs and how hard it is to get away from them. The author paints a fantastic picture of London’s seedy underworld and although it’s a picture that’s uncomfortable to look at, it certainly makes the reader think a little more carefully about things we might usually paint over.
The book is also full of a diverse cast of brightly drawn supporting characters. I’m particularly fond of Jay’s mother, Eric and Big Al, although there are plenty more.
I do still have issues with editing. The spelling and punctuation is fairly good (although I wouldn’t take my word on the punctuation because I’m shaky myself), and although the writing is immature in places it’s strong enough to carry the story. However, it’s peppered with frustrating little errors like “changed tact” instead of “changed tack”, and places where the tense bounces back and forth between past and present.
There’s no doubt that an author, editor, etc. who reads this book will be frustrated in places, but I hope they will get over that to truly appreciate the gem in the rough. Readers who don’t care about technical perfection, and young people generally, I would think, won’t have a problem and will be enthralled by the book. Even those who might struggle with the way it’s written have to be caught up by the story and drawn in by these amazing characters.
You might think, given what I’ve said, that 4 stars is a little too generous. Trust me, it’s not. The story more than carries its imperfections and as frustrating as it can be it has a force that keeps you on the edge of the seat and a grittiness that opens your eyes and makes you think. This is definitely a book worth reading and one I will undoubtedly read again.