In the delightfully dark tradition of Patrick Ness comes Sally Gardner’s grim but ultimately redeeming tale for (youngish) adults. In a dreary England oppressed by an unspecified (but recognizably fascistic) regime, Standish Treadwell is not doing well at all. He lives with his grandfather (his parents mysteriously missing), in a neglected neighbourhood where “unsuitables” are relegated to. Dyslexic and different, he doesn’t conform to the predictable ideal of boyhood; school is a misery of daily humiliation and bullying, until Hector shows up and becomes Standish’ ally and friend. The novel is told in vivid, crisp chapters, framed as spoken tales told by the illiterate Standish, as he battles increasing danger and looming despair in the wake of Hector’s disappearance. It is a touching tale of courage in the face of almost certain doom, with a sweet, misfit hero and his stark, beautiful worldview at the heart of it.
Picture credit: Sally Gardner’s book blog.