In Bloom by Matthew Crow

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In Bloom by Matthew Crow

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Reviewed by Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Summary: In Bloom is a highly enjoyable and life-affirming novel, filled with great characters, and more laugh-out-loud moments than would be expected for a book about two teens with cancer. Matthew Crow popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 234 Date: September 2013
Publisher: Much-in-Little
ISBN: 9781472105516

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Member of a loving but dysfunctional family, life has rarely been straightforward for Francis Wooton, and he is no stranger to heartbreak. Despite this, he's always maintained sensible plans, to get good grades in his GCSEs and A Levels, and get into University, where he'll finally meet his real friends and the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, a whole new world of worry presents itself when he is diagnosed with leukaemia. He knows his mother and brother will do everything and anything they can to support him, but even they can do little to ease the constant nausea, the all-pervasive pain, the horror of imminent baldness and the general bleak agony that cancer brings. But every cloud has a silver lining, and it is at the hospital unit that Francis first sets eyes on Amber, a girl unlike anyone else he has met before. Amber makes Francis feel more alive than ever, and if anything can help cure the despair of cancer, first love might just be it.

Cancer isn't an easy thing for anyone to deal with, but it is especially, desperately unfair when it is children and teenagers having to fight it. So you might expect a book like this to be sad and painful to read. While it has its fair share of poignant moments, there are way more instances where the pages are bursting with fantastic humour and wit. Much of the humour derives from the brilliant narrative voice of Francis Wooton. It is almost impossible not to root for him, and his bluntly honest thoughts and astute observations are brilliant, and often hilarious, to read. He's incredibly likeable, but also unique and interesting. Matthew Crow just about strikes the perfect balance, making him very intelligent and witty, but still prone to the small immaturities and insecurities that make him a believable teenager. And on top of that, there's a real sense of British-ness to his voice that will make him even easier for teens across the country to relate to.

This is no one-man show though. I loved his no-nonsense, hard as nails mum, and his cool but wayward brother Chris, and their efforts to support Francis are really heart-warming to read. Their family dynamic is brought to life beautifully, and despite conflicts and arguments, you're never left with any doubt about the strong bond between them. And then there's Amber. Crude and unapologetic, she has a cutting tongue that she gives plenty of use. She doesn't give a toss what others think, and lives life by her own rules. She's another really original character, and she is the perfect foil to Francis' caution and general pacifism. The relationship between them is as genuine and well written as the characters themselves.

To call this a story about cancer isn't quite right. While the author certainly never holds back from conveying the harsh realities of the disease, he also doesn't let Francis' diagnosis and treatment define the core of the story. It is always there, like a ticking time bomb, but this is so much more a story about the lives of these interesting characters, and a story about how young love can thrive in even the grimmest of situations.

The characters are refreshingly different, and the story is incredibly honest and life affirming. The only thing holding the book back from five stars is that the plot is rather predictable overall, and the pacing of the story does feel a bit wobbly at times. Nonetheless, In Bloom comes highly recommended from me.

Thank you for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

In Bloom reminded me strongly of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which might not have as much humour, but is just as life-affirming and beautifully written, with a really stunning storyline. Wonder by R J Palacio is another great book with really likeable characters, all about overcoming the odds when life deals you a rubbish hand. And I can't leave without also recommending The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, which also has a singularly stunning narrator, and combines grief and love and humour to create a mixture that is wonderful to read.

Bookinterviews.jpg Matthew Crow was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

Buy In Bloom by Matthew Crow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy In Bloom by Matthew Crow at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy In Bloom by Matthew Crow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy In Bloom by Matthew Crow at


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Robert James said:

Great review! I actually preferred this to TFIOS, as great as that was - I think the characters here are stronger overall. Like you, I thought the family dynamic was superb.

And The Sky Is Everywhere is a brilliant recommendation - still my favourite YA contemporary for years!