You’ll feel your heart being tugged when you read this. The plight of two teenage boys, fleeing the war in Syria is bound to be a heart breaker. I am a fan of this author having read two of his previous books and loved them. He has a way of writing about big issues with a gentle hand which is endearing and completely engaging and that is what he has done here. Through the eyes of his main character Zain, he takes through the myriad issues that face refugees. The fact that they are leaving their homes and loved ones and setting off on a journey to an unknown place with a completely unknown future, lack of money, it is dangerous and with what at times seem like insurmountable difficulties.
Zain and Mohammad wash up on a beach in Greece and then swim from there to Turkey at what is just the beginning of their long journey hoping to get to the U.K. it seems such an unlikely goal but they are gritty kids. On the beach they meet an elderly man called Jesus, he rescues them but in turn they rescue him and he becomes their travelling companion. He is difficult and worst of all is a very bad alcoholic but Zain feels a responsibility for him even if Mohammad is less keen, but then Mohammad is 14 and very self absorbed, understandable in one so young who has been wrenched from everything he knows and loves. Zain is sensible, he manages Mohammad so well, he promised his mum as they left that he would always look after his little brother and this is a promise he is determined to keep. These three will travel through country after country on their quest but on the way they will find strength and love and discover who they are along the way. The boys will discover that Jesus has a secret, they will cope with his alcoholism, they will become separated and there will be danger and sadness galore. The scenes at the end of the book are totally stunning and incredibly moving, tears were shed.
I only have a tiny criticism of this book, it is just slightly too long and could have been tighter in places but really it is one of those treasures of a story that we need in our lives right now. It is moving and topical. I was cheering for these boys from the start.
Thanks to the publishers and to Netgalley for giving me access to this lovely book.
I’ve been talking about it to anybody who will listen since I started it. Then I was eking it out so that it lasted longer. And now I don’t even know where to start to write about it. It is being marketed as being YA, but I’d argue that it is for anybody.
The girls of the County are sent away for a year, into a fenced area in the wilderness. On their return, bedraggled, broken, injured and unable to talk of their experiences, they never speak of their time away on The Grace Year. Before they even head away they are chosen as brides by the eligible men of the village. This includes those who have found an excuse to get rid of their loyal wives on feeble excuses to get at one of the new crop of eligible new brides. It is the beginning of the horror of this story. It is going to get way more uncomfortable!
Tierney our heroine is plucky and sharp. The other girls don’t like her, they are suspicious of her for many reasons but partly because she is friends with Michael, who chooses her in the betrothal ceremony and also because her father has set her up by teaching her practical skills, these are skills none of the other girls have. They have been trained to serve and kowtow to the men, not Tierney, she’s a fighter. As they head into the awfulness of the Grace Year she is going to need every tiny scrap of her feistiness.
There is so much in this book. It requires a certain amount of grit to cope with its horror. Tierney is so awesome. There are so many favourite moments in this book, she finds seeds sewn lovingly into her cloak, the love scene, the fearsome way she deals with the psychological persecution of the awful mean girls and their terrible leader.
If you like a dystopian fiction this is going to make you very very happy. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this great novel.
I’ve been very invested in the survival of Finn, Rowdy, Kas and Ray. I’ve been rooting for them since the very beginning of The Road to Winter, the first book in this series. This book is what I call a hook book, a book that gets young men reading, I have a bunch of Yr 11 boys at school who are hanging out to get their hands on this one, I was really pleased to get an advance copy from Netgalley, thanks to Text Publishing for approving me for this.
The story picks up with a marvellous opening scene of Finn and Kas swimming in the rockpools and surf of the bay, there is a great sense of happiness and calm and the love between these two is so beautiful to read. Then this is shattered immediately as they become aware of the advance of troops to their town who declare it uninhabitable and out of bounds. The team are on the run again but get caught almost immediately and transported to a processing centre where they are tagged with trackers. Of course nothing is as simple as that. Finn’s mortal enemies Ramsay and Tusker are still causing him trouble and this time they mean to take him out completely. They are now in positions of power and have the backing of the new regional powers. This is disastrous for Finn and Kas.
Like both of the other books the action is full on in this, there is a lot going on, daring escapes through dangerous ground, terrible hunger and thirst and constant fear. Through all this we have the wonderful love of Finn and Kas, their protectiveness for those they become involved with along the way and lots of scary moments as they fight to regain their land and home.
I’ve so enjoyed this series. I’ll continue to recommend it to students and keep buying copies, we currently have 5 of each of the previous books and they are hardly ever on the shelves. Below is a video of the author speaking about the first book in the series.