This is the sort of book I don’t usually read. You know the ones, from the “sad story” section of the bookshop. The misery-books as I call them. But a few years ago I’d heard of Melvin Burgess as an author to look out for. I’ve read his Lady : My life as a Bitch and to be honest I wasn’t all that impressed, but I’ll always give an author a second go. So I tried this one.
In the 1980’s Nick Dane is growing up as an average, if bright kid. He comes from a single parent family, and his mother has a secret. She never got off the drugs, not completely. And in the course of having a “taste” she accidentally overdoses and Nick is left all alone in the world. Soon he finds himself carted off to a “home” for boys, and soon learns that the violence and random beatings are not the worse this place has to offer.
As I said, this isn’t my usual sort of book, I’ve no problem with the harrowing or the sexual. But when that is all the book is about I have a problem. It seems a little too much like exploiting the real issues for a vicarious thrill. Luckily Burgess is a better write than that. This is more of an updated Olive Twist story so there is more to the story than the abuse. However the abuse does make up a lot of it. And I found that it was actually handled quite well. Nothing too graphic, but you still know exactly what is going on. I also found Nick’s reaction to be sadly believable.
However the second half of the book meanders along with nothing much happening. Nick isn’t the nicest of characters, and in the second half we never really get back inside his head. There are also some secondary characters that are fairly meh-worthy. And I’m not even going to get started on the lack of believable female characters. Also, there is a preachy-feel to the ending. Although things aren’t all tidied up, they still feel as though Burgess was too busy with his message to write a proper ending.