Closer by Maxine Linnell

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Closer by Maxine Linnell

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Dreadful domestic incidents make 15-year old Mel have quite a rotten summer in this powerful, concise and realistic drama.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 196 Date: May 2011
Publisher: Five Leaves Publications
ISBN: 978-1907869266

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This is one of those concise and powerful little books where it's best for the reader to come to it with as little knowledge of the plot as possible, so I'll feature the mood - and Mel has a lot of those. Beyond her yet-to-actually-start relationship with Raj, and her best friend Chloe, she has her family - fractious animosity with her older sister, a younger brother who only plays computer games, and little freedom it seems from her mother. At least her step-dad's a funky bloke though - although one mum finds fault with easily enough. It's hardly comfy domesticity, and is even worse when interrupted by something very disturbing.

Those who, like me, know the corner of Leicester in which this is set will see the park move at whim from Vicky Park to Aylestone Rec but those looking for a lack of realism will seek in vain. It feel churningly realistic at times, with an honesty and truth vital to such a drama. The character of Mel, while not as superlative as the blurb has her, still comes across brilliantly, her first person narration full of teenager tropes - lax grammar and too many 'and's and other quirks in long sentences; lots of hard-hitting short ones.

And if I fail to get across how good this book is, I can at least state what it's not - it's not false, it's not a particularly complex read, and it certainly doesn't feel 'worthy'. All of which make it ideal for the target audience, of girls twelve and up. It's an 'issue' book that has been done so expertly it reaches across into entertainment, despite how dark the emotions get. I wouldn't have chosen to read about this subject, and now I wouldn't have wished for a better way to bring it to mind and to start that audience thinking.

It's certainly been done before, but here is a most useful and recommendable novella. A devil's advocate might say the happy beats (Raj, Mel's oh-so-apt artworks) are a little pat, but while reading this you're not judging Linnell, but her very powerful characters in their true-to-life awkwardnesses. And I'll think you'd be doing that for some time to come afterwards. Finally, this is one of those concise and powerful little books that make for good TV and cinema films, should someone care to take notice...

I must thank the publishers for sending us a review copy.

For a very different child's family story from Leicester, we also enjoyed Six Feet Deep by Rose Impey.

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