|Dead Boy Talking by Linda Strachan|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Tense and claustrophobic novel about gangs and teen knife crime.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 176||Date: June 2010|
|External links: Author's website|
They say it takes about 25 minutes to bleed to death. I want to scream and yell but there's no one here to hear me and I... I can't breath enough to yell anyway. I'm going to die here, all on my own.
Josh is lying in the snow in an alleyway in a pool of his own blood. He stabbed one of his best mates yesterday, and now it's happened to him. He knows he's dying and his thoughts turn to how this could possibly have happened. He wonders where Skye is and what she's doing. He hopes Danny is ok. And, as he goes over the events of the day before, which culminated in his stabbing Ranj, his missing brother Gary keeps intruding into the picture. Why did he go? And did his parents' obsession with Gary's disappearance play a part in what's happened?
Linda Strachan tells Josh's story in a series of flashbacks as he lies bleeding and alone. It's a difficult story and she doesn't flinch from some hard truths. Josh certainly isn't a cold-blooded murderous teenager and he didn't set out to stab Ranj. And his parents do have a great deal to answer for: they've neglected Josh terribly since his brother ran away from home and they've missed all the cues that attentive parents perhaps would have picked up on. But all that notwithstanding, Josh is culpable too - and he knows it. He allowed jealousy to come between him and Ranj; he chose to carry a knife; he provoked confrontations with Harry and his YHT gang. There aren't any moral absolutes and Strachan doesn't pretend that there are.
Tension builds remorselessly as Josh's clock ticks down. Will he be found in time? And will we ever find out what happened to Gary?
I don't mind admitting that I shed a tear at the end of this book. It really does bring home the horror of knives. Having said that though, harsh and uncompromising it may be, but it doesn't end on altogether bleak note. There are fresh beginnings and I think this is a message that we really need to get through to teenagers. It doesn't matter how many paces down the wrong path you go, there's always a way back. Teen fiction is engaging admirably with the knife crime issue, and Dead Boy Talking is a welcome addition to that conversation.
Linda's got the pupils at North Berwick High School involved in helping to publicise the book. Check out their blog!
My thanks to the good people at Strident for sending the book.
Teen fiction is engaging wonderfully well with the issue of knives. Two of my favourites in the field are The Knife That Killed Me by Anthony McGowan and Teacher's Dead by Benjamin Zephaniah. The Dirty South by Alex Wheatle is also superb.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dead Boy Talking by Linda Strachan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Dead Boy Talking by Linda Strachan at Amazon.com.
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Katherine Grover said:
Linda came to the International School of Aberdeen during our Elementary Art and Writing in April 2010. She read an extract of "Dead Boy Talking" to our fifth graders. You could have heard a pin drop! Linda really knows how to hold her audience's attention. The students were enthralled but disappointed that they couldn't get hold of the book immediately to finish reading it for themselves, as both the subject matter and writing style appealed to them. After her visit many of our students went on to read her other book aimed at teenagers, "Spider." This book also deals with hard-hitting, 'youth' topics- joy-riding and teenage pregnancy. A book I would definitely recommend.
Katherine Grover School Librarian International School of Aberdeen