Crossing the Line by Gillian Philip

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Crossing the Line by Gillian Philip

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Gritty and tense with dollops of deadpan humour, this story of the aftermath of a fatal stabbing comes highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: April 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 0747599939

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Kevin Naughton killed my sister's boyfriend with a Valu-Pack Stay-Sharp vegetable knife; he stuck it in the brother of the girl I love and severed his subcostal artery... Kevin Naughton was my friend.

So, as you can see, life isn't treating Nick Geddes too well. His mother is so busy offering trite self-help snippets on the radio, she doesn't have much time for helping closer to home. His father is lurching into alcoholism and looking to blame everyone else for his own failures; in particular, Nick. His grandmother is tottering further and further into dementia and his sister Allie refuses to acknowledge her boyfriend's death. She's far too old for an imaginary friend, but Aidan is a constant, if invisible, fixture nonetheless.

And if all that weren't bad enough, Nick is persona non grata at school. Nobody wants to know the ex-bully, especially the ex-bully whose ex-friend killed someone, and especially Orla, whose brother was the one who died. But Nick isn't a bad person. He fell into bullying almost by accident. It was the first week at school when it happened - everything seemed as though it was eat or be eaten, and Nick didn't want to be eaten. He regretted the choice almost straightaway, but he only had the courage to do something about it when it was all far, far too late - I thought it was a game, the way you do when you're twelve. I didn't exactly think it was play-acting, but I was starring in my own little movie and the sad thing is I wasn't even a headline act.

Told partly after the murder and partly in flashback, this is the story of Nick, who has made some critical mistakes and who is trying to get his life back on track. Philip has school politics down pat. It's a brutal world in the playground sometimes, and once you've got on the wrong roundabout it's extremely hard to get off. The family dynamics are on the button too. Nick thinks his parents are absolutely useless, but of course they aren't. They're fallible, not perfect, but they're trying in their own ways. But of course, this isn't any good when you're an adolescent stuck in a Lord of the Flies narrative - the best parent in the world isn't going to be able help you with that. Such is the perceived dislocation of the teenager.

There are several threads: a thriller, dealing with revenge in the aftermath of Kev's trial; a redemption tale, as Nick and Orla feel their way towards a place where they can be happy and move on; a kitchen sink drama, in which the Geddes family regain the cohesion a traumatic event put at risk. They all blend together seamlessly, with some tension, some pathos in Allie's fantasy, and wonderful dialogue with the kind of gritty, backs-against-the-wall humour that breaks all the grimness with some genuine belly laughs.

I really like Gillian Philip. She's out there with some uncompromising, unpatronising stories that really engage their readers. Crossing the Line comes highly recommended.

My thanks to the nice people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.

They can also see the fallout from knife crime in Teacher's Dead by Benjamin Zephaniah. A completely different take on it, but an utterly addictive one, is the Blade series by Tim Bowler. in Catcall by Linda Newbery, Josh reacts to overwhelming events by retreating into a fantasy world, rather like Allie in Crossing the Line. There's a brilliant discussion of bullying in the stupendous Lucas by Kevin Brooks.

Bookinterviews.jpg Gillian Philip was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

Booklists.jpg Crossing the Line by Gillian Philip is in the Top Ten Books To Drag The Kids Away From Computer Games For Ten Minutes At Least.

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Buy Crossing the Line by Gillian Philip at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Crossing the Line by Gillian Philip at


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