Devil's Rock by Chris Speyer

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Devil's Rock by Chris Speyer

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Ghostly adventures on the Devon coast combined with growing up and a family crisis make this a winning novel for tweens and early teens. Change is the overriding theme.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 0747597529

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Things are always changing, but some things never change. One thing that never changes is the difficulty of growing up. It's all so horribly scary. Zaki is on the cusp of growing up and Devil's Rock opens with him steering the family boat through treacherous reefs and into the River Orme for the very first time. It truly is a family rite of passage. But it's dimmed somewhat, because so many other things are suddenly different. Zaki's brother has lurched slap bang into adolescence, and there's a distance between them. There's an even bigger distance between Zaki and his mother, since she is away - working, apparently, and can't say when, if ever, she's coming home.

Left to his own devices by his preoccupied father and brother, Zaki goes exploring further afield than he ever has before. He finds a cave containing an ancient skeleton and a mysterious bracelet and is caught by the tide. Saved from drowning by an anonymous girl who swears him to secrecy, he is plunged into a centuries-old mystery of pirates, and ghosts, and shape-changing, and dreadful peril.

It's nothing new, using the supernatural as a metaphor for coming-of-age - reviews of such books are all over Bookbag. One of my favourites is The Changeover by Margaret Mahy, which uses witchcraft as its motif. Devil's Rock uses ghosts, shaman magic and adds another layer - the mercurial and unpredictable nature of the sea. These layers repeat the underlying theme of change over and over and it makes for a compelling and winning read, which will appeal immensely to girls and boys alike.

Zaki has immediately recognisable concerns - a new school, new friends, a brother growing distant, and a family unity under threat. Even his home is transient, as his father renovates houses and they live in each one only for a short while. The ghost-girl, Rhiannon, is frozen in youth, and for all Zaki's fears and worries, it's clear that her situation is inestimably worse than his. She can't change, and it's an horrific fate.

It's well-plotted, tense and tight with a palpable air of menace. The Devon setting is wonderfully atmospheric and every character is well-rounded and interesting. It's asking some big questions too. Devil's Rock is recommended summer read for just about every tween and early tween you can think of. There's something for everyone.

My thanks to the nice people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.

They might also enjoy Breathing Underwater by Julia Green, which is also about change in many ways. It has slightly less of the supernatural, but the sailing and naturalism is similar, as are childhood worries about parents breaking up. Waterslain Angels by Kevin Crossley-Holland is a wonderful and slightly supernatural story set in the 1950s, which I think may also appeal.

Buy Devil's Rock by Chris Speyer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Devil's Rock by Chris Speyer at

Buy Devil's Rock by Chris Speyer at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Devil's Rock by Chris Speyer at


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