Smart by Kim Slater

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Smart by Kim Slater

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Very strong characters make this one well worth reading, despite the mystery aspect not being quite as satisfying as I hoped for. Kim Slater is an author to watch out for!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: June 2014
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1447254096

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Shortlisted for the 2015 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize: Best Book for Teens

Shortlisted for the Children's Book Award 2016: Books for Older Readers

Kieran sees the world in a different way from most 14-year-old boys. He’s an artist, inspired by Lowry, and a boy with a strong sense of right and wrong. So when a homeless man called Colin is killed, and the police don’t seem interested, Kieran decides to investigate himself. Can he solve the mystery? Perhaps even more importantly, can he survive his home life with horrible stepfather Tony and stepbrother Ryan bullying him?

Kieran is a really wonderful character with a very strong voice. His autism is well-handled and his difficult home life is compelling to read about – I was desperately hoping for Tony and Ryan to get their comeuppance. It’s also got a massively strong ending which rounds things off perfectly for this storyline. Supporting characters are excellent, too - Tony and Ryan are vile but believably so, I felt massively sorry for Kieran's mum who's trapped in a terrible relationship, and there are sympathetic portrayals of homeless people, especially Kieran's friend Jean.

The crime aspect was less to my tastes, if I’m honest. Compared to other recent strong mysteries like The Glass Bird Girl by Esme Kerr and Murder Most Unladylike (Wells & Wong Mystery 1) by Robin Stevens, it didn't feel like enough of a puzzle to me – I think it works far better as a character-driven book than a detective story, despite the tagline A mysterious crime. A different detective being what originally drew me to the novel. I was expecting to have more of a mystery to work out for myself and didn't think I got that.

So bearing that in mind, despite my issues with this aspect of the book it’s an easy recommendation to make on the strength of Kieran’s character. I think fans of thoughtful contemporaries will be really impressed by this debut. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from Kim Slater!

Some of the best mysteries recently have been aimed at slightly younger readers, with the Sesame Seade trilogy, starting with Sesame Seade Mysteries 1: Sleuth on Skates by Clementine Beauvais and Sarah Horne, and The Glass Bird Girl by Esme Kerr probably being my personal favourites.

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