A Very Good Chance by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
|A Very Good Chance by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Lovely story combining horses, first love, othering and family breakdown. It's short, sweet and evocative and occupies the rather empty space between tween and YA offerings.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 181||Date: September 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
Minty isn't having a great time at home. It's quite clear, from the hissing conversations in other rooms and the looming silences, that her parents' marriage is in trouble. Not that either Mum or Dad is admitting that to Minty. School is a bit of a bore, unless it's history as taught by trenchant Italian Serena Serralunga. Minty needs an escape...
... and she finds one in Nettlebog. Nettlebog is a wild area near to Minty's Dublin home and a "secret" place enjoyed by Minty and her friends. This summer, it's also home to Ned Buckley, a traveller boy, and a classmate of Minty's. Ned is an irregular attender at school and even when he is there, says very little. Brendan Kirby doesn't like Ned and loses no opportunity to put him down. The grown-ups, with the exception of Serena, aren't keen on Ned either. He's one of those bad influences, apparently.
But Ned doesn't seem like a bad influence to Minty. He owns two beautiful horses and when he rides them, it's almost as if horse and boy become one. And, as she gets to know him, Minty finds that Ned, a boy who can barely read, has possible answers to her problems that nobody else can articulate...
There is so, so much I liked about A Very Good Chance. Firstly, it fills what sometimes feels like a rather empty space between stories intended for tweens and pre-teens and those intended for a mature YA audience. Minty could be twelve. But she could also be fifteen. This space allows Fitzgerald to describe the intensity and wonder of a first big crush without any actual physicality, even a bit of kissing. And it's really quite beautiful. I liked it that Minty is highly articulate, even when she's berating herself for being tongue-tied. She's quite clear with her parents about how let down she feels by their prevaricating and obfuscations. She wants the truth from them and doesn't get it. Yet they are entirely deaf to what she's saying. It's important for parents to be truthful with their children and I loved it that Fitzgerald puts this truth in the mouth of her adolescent central character.
What else? The language is lyrical and evocative and vivid. The book itself is short and sharp but unpacks itself in a way that makes it seem huge and expansive. It has horses and caravans and tyre swings and cheese and tomato sandwiches. It's both romantic and dreamy and rooted in kitchen sink realities. And it's very strong on the notion of othering - Ned, as a traveller, is the victim of covert bullying and has many unfounded assumptions levelled at him.
Of course, it's not perfect. The timeline is unclear. The ending is pure wish fulfilment. But these are mere nitpicks. A Very Good Chance gave me a great deal of pleasure - much more than I thought I'd get from this slim, unassuming little volume, which is telling its readers that there are many, many ways to be great.
After the Flood by L S Matthews also explores the space between YA and middle grader stories and also makes horses a central feature of the narrative. A Room Full of Chocolate by Jane Elson is in the same ball park and also emphasises how important it is for parents to be truthful with their children.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Very Good Chance by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Very Good Chance by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald at Amazon.com.
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