Shadow Cat by Gillian Cross

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Shadow Cat by Gillian Cross

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Tanja Jennings
Reviewed by Tanja Jennings
Summary: Two teenagers from different worlds are plunged into an exhilarating adventure involving the green haired Ro (who has a penchant for impulsive behaviour), a popular band famous for emotive lyrics, a crazy road trip and a mesmerizingly beautiful and dangerous wild animal desperately in need of protection. Cross has crafted a compulsive, well-paced, emotive read which deals with the sensitive topic of mental illness. She uses striking imagery and smoothly employs dual narrative intercutting between first and third person. The only quibble is the cookie cutter Cruella de Vil style villain Vix who could have been more rounded.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: June 2015
Publisher: Oxford University Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780192736734

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When Nolan's effervescent mother suddenly takes him on a surprise journey he is in as much fear and doubt as the reader about what will happen next. Meanwhile music sensation Midir's daughter Feather is tired of being controlled and dreading the next photo opportunity for the press. Then, one night, as her father prepares for a shocking, spectacular event, everything changes. Cross keeps us guessing as Nolan's world is turned upside down and he has to make difficult choices. Why is his mother in the clouds on an exultant high one minute and grey, stressed and in the doldrums of despair the next? Does Feather really want to be his friend or do they just have the serval they have sworn to protect in common?

Cross's characters are well drawn for the most part. Nolan is bright, tenacious, foolhardy, frustrated, kind and courageous. Feather is lonely, caring, understanding and feisty. Ro resembles an ethereal being. She is a powder keg and a free spirit who can't think before she acts. Alasdair is thoughtful and freely spoken while Mrs Jay is the no nonsense village fixer. It is only Vix (likened to a vixen) who is a disappointment as no reason is given as to why she is so cruel and manipulative.

Why, how and where do Feather and Nolan's lives become entangled with the fate of an amazing African wild cat? Where is Nolan's father? Why hasn't he received any messages on his mobile? What is Midir and Sally's secret? What hold has Vix got over the band? What role do Alasdair and Mrs Jay and a red-breasted goose play in the sequence of events which rapidly unfold? What will Ro's next move be? Is Nolan in danger? The book is a page turner as the answers are revealed with the action shifting swiftly from a block of flats to a compact camper van to the English countryside to a remote Scottish valley. There are some great set pieces including the first appearance of the enigmatic serval- stalking forward on long legs with its shoulders rippling black and gold (I will not tell you where as it is not what you would expect), a weird moon catching ceremony and a frantic chase down the shore of the loch.

For another on the edge of the seat road trip try the action packed and thought provoking Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen set in the Panhandle in Florida. If you would like more serious reads which look sensitively at the issue of mental illness read The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson, Lemonade Sky by Jean Ure which examines the effects on young children of an ill parent behaving irresponsibly, Bang Bang You're Dead by Narinder Dhami about a girl struggling with her mother's manic depression while simultaneously worrying that her twin has done something unforgivable. For an injection of troubled teen romance experience Jenna's fractured world in Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt and sympathise with the engaging Lottie in Lottie Biggs is (Not) Mad by Hayley Long. If you have the strength for more emotional devastation read what teens are still talking about- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green followed by From Where I Stand by Tabitha Suzuma.

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