Finding Cherokee Brown by Siobhan Curham
|Finding Cherokee Brown by Siobhan Curham
|Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam
|Summary: A story of self-discovery, about rediscovering a lost parent and standing up to a bully, with distinctive but realistic characters, and a narrative that will draw you in like a fish on a hook. Recommended.
|Date: March 2013
|Publisher: Electric Monkey
|External links: Author's website
Claire Weeks is timid, lonely, and characterised by a pronounced limp. On the other hand, Cherokee Brown is confident, cool, and unafraid to stand up for herself. On her fifteenth birthday, Claire discovers that her birth name was actually Cherokee Brown, and that her birth father, who had supposedly abandoned her for America, has been living just a tube journey away from her for over a decade. Meeting her father, Claire discovers a whole new side to her life that she couldn't have imagined. Spurred on by this rush of self-discovery Claire decides to embrace Cherokee and all that she stands for.
Ever since her best friend moved away, Claire has been bullied at school, and having always felt ostracised from the rest of her family, who are kind but unable to understand her, she has had no-one to turn to. So it isn't surprising that she reaches for an opportunity to meet her real dad, who is a bold and attractive street musician. They find themselves bonding almost immediately, and the experiences she has with her father, and his 18 year-old lodger Harrison, fill a hole that she's always subconsciously had in her life. They help her find the strength and confidence to stand-up for herself, whether it is at home, or to the bullies at school. Unfortunately, things don't proceed straightforwardly, and both her conflict with her mum, and with the bullies at school, escalate in dramatic ways.
The story is framed as a book that Claire is actively writing about her life, which gives the narrative an intriguing twist. Quotes from a slightly archaic self-help book for novelists, written by the aptly named Agatha Dashwood, open each chapter. I loved how these bits of literary advice link in with each chapter, and the process of writing the book and living out its events become intertwined for Claire. The character questionnaires, which she completes for each character on the encouragement of Agatha Dashwood, were often hilarious to read, with my favourite having to be the elaborate romanticised background that she built up for Harrison after first meeting him – which turned out to be quite wrong.
I loved Claire/Cherokee as a character. Her voice and her plight drew me in from pretty much the first page. She is immediately likeable, and as a self-depreciating underdog, she is incredibly easy to root for. Not all authors can successfully pull off a witty, fast-talking stream of teenage girl monologue, but Siobhan Curham manages to do so in style. Absorbing throughout, the narrative is effortlessly emotional, and humorous whenever it needs to be. Most importantly, Claire's character development, as she grows into Cherokee, is significant but subtle, and very much believable. The dialogue between the characters is similarly strong, and aided by the vividly drawn out characters, is engaging and realistic. The strong writing and characters combine to form a mixture that feels meaningful, and had me emotionally engaged with the story throughout.
The bullying storyline is portrayed in a thought-provoking manner, as Claire comes to realise that the inability of her teacher to intervene in the situation is because she is being bullied as well. While the situation is fraught with tension and strong emotions, it never feels unrealistic, and it plays out with a powerful emotional punch. Similarly, Claire's nascent relationship with her father is developed in a thoughtful way, which feels true to the characters, as the author demonstrates how such relationships can be complex and don't always develop entirely smoothly.
Overall, Finding Cherokee Brown is a heart-warming and highly entertaining read, with a very likeable narrator. The original narrative elements simply add to the enjoyment of the reading experience.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
The vividness of Cherokee's voice brought to mind that of Lennie from The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, a breathtaking story of love and grief. Crow Boy by Philip Caveney also has a young protagonist who is being bullied, but with a time travel twist.
You can read more book reviews or buy Finding Cherokee Brown by Siobhan Curham at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Finding Cherokee Brown by Siobhan Curham at Amazon.com.
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