Monday, October 11, 2010
Review: Dead Boy Talking by Linda Strachan
Author: Linda Strachan
Who Should Read It? If you're interested in slow-moving but intense YA that delves seriously into one topic, this is for you. It's reminiscent of S.E. Hinton, but a little less simple and a little less beautiful.
What I Have to Say:
I was actually a little taken by surprise by this book. My first reaction was that Linda Strachan is trying hard to be S.E. Hinton and failing. And in a way, even after having finished the book, I still feel that way. I mean, she's taken a teenage boy who's a little rough around the edges, but who still remains a good person, and thrown him in to the gritty real-world of knives and loss and "hard times." And yet she just doesn't write with the poise and grace of S.E. Hinton. For the entire first third of the book (and in a book as short as Dead Boy Talking, that's a lot), I found Josh's character distinctly unbelievable.
A third of the way through, though, this book picked up for me. Strachan finally got around to telling the parts of the story that, to me, needed to be told. She finally developed Josh enough for me to be capable of believing him and believing in him as a character. It made sense why he was the way he was and why he thought the things he thought and did the things he did. And as this happened, Strachan was finally able to break away from my constant comparisons to Hinton and create a novel that is, without a doubt, worth a read.
Dead Boy Talking goes back and forth between fist person and third person narrative - we hear the story leading up to how Josh found himself lying in a pool of his own blood and the story as Josh thinks back over the events as he is slowly dying. It is gritty, it is real, and it is heart-breaking.
While the book is, on the surface, about knife crime, Strachan brilliantly weaves in the story of what it is like to be a teenager. When we're teenagers (or, let's face it, even adults), it's so easy to get caught up in trying to be our reputations that we often forget who we are and what is important to us. It's easy to forget that everyone has problems; what is important is how we deal with them. The alternation between first person and third person narrative allows the reader to understand just how important our decisions and reactions are. It also broaches the subject of knife-crime and teenage runaways in a completely real, no-nonsense way.
So, while it took me a while to be convinced by this book, in the end it hit me hard, and I think it will hit you hard, too. I found myself sobbing towards the very end. It also sends an important message to teens about the impact of running away and on the dangers of knife crimes. Read this book, and I don't think you will be disappointed.
Summary: Josh has 25 minutes left to live. Lying alone in a pool of blood, Josh has not much time to think. Yesterday he stabbed his best mate, and now it has happened to him. But there are questions he cannot get out of his head. Like, how did he get into this mess? Will anyone find him in time? Will his girlfriend forgive him, and what really happened to his older brother? As his life slips away, the events of the last 24 hours start to look very different.
Cover Story: It is sharp and concise, just like knives and just like the book.
Disclosure: I won a copy of this book from the Bookette.