Dirty Angels by Andrew Clover

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Dirty Angels by Andrew Clover

Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A gloriously weird book, mixing kitchen sink teen observational comedy with political comment with surreal fantasy. It's a winning combination of ghosts, monsters, liberated souls, terrorist bombs, consumer greed, breasts, half a dozen pubic hairs and snogging. Highly recommended!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: August 2007
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0340930977

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Colin Hitchin is - as all good teen narrators should be - way down in the pecking order of his peer group, but way above it in intellectual ability. He's in unrequited love with Polly, whose individuality makes her oblivious to pecking order. He spends a great deal of time being picked on and avoiding being picked on. Colin's father died several years ago and there is some mystery surrounding the circumstances. Colin's mother has a succession of annoying and unsuitable boyfriends. And Colin has anger issues, which he occasionally indulges by lighting the odd fire or two.

So far, so teen fiction good. However...

Colin also sees ghosts. Pigeons talk to him in the voice of Samuel L Jackson. He can also predict the future - he knew when his father would die and he also knew that a bomb was about to go off in Clissold Park. And the only person who believes him is his mad old hippy uncle, Jimmy. So it's Colin and Jimmy fighting alone for redemption perhaps just for Colin, or perhaps for Colin's peer group, or even perhaps, for us all.

Oh good lord, where to start? Dirty Angels is a winning combination of ghosts, monsters, liberated souls, terrorist bombs, consumer greed, breasts, half a dozen pubic hairs (exactly) and snogging. We begin the book in familiar angsty teen fiction territory and before we know it, we've been snatched up and taken on a ride through a possible nervous breakdown... or was it a wake-up call about impending environmental doom... or was it an uplifting parable about the inspirational and influential power for redemption demonstrated through sacrifice for a friend? I think it was probably all three. I know it was a wonderful read.

Colin is a winning creation. He's talented, he's funny, he's angry and he's sad. You're rooting for him from the very first pages as he takes the bus to school - a journey full of the traps and pitfalls of teen cruelty. And unusually in a book for this age range, the bullies aren't cardboard cut outs of irretrievable badness. Everyone's redeemable - even the girls who give the diminutive Colin a dunking in the school toilets and hang him up on the door by his trousers; even the hopeless chess geek. Everyone's got it in them to be happy, but they've also got it in them to be worthwhile.

Being the wrong side of forty, albeit with adolescent sons of my own, it took me a little while to get into Colin's lingo. Dirty Angels is full of colloquialisms and slang and the excruciating grammatical constructions used by everyone under, well, under the wrong side of forty! However, the slang suited the gritty Stoke Newington environment and the even grittier kitchen sink drama of Colin's life. It also helped prevent the astral planing and associated hippyish fantasy elements of the book from feeling hackneyed or twee, or dislocated from the people and landscape they were inhabiting.

It has an endearing hero, a recognisable emotional landscape, a contemporary style, political comment and a magical fantasy world. There's redemption for all. What's not to like? They'll love it. Go read it before they do.

My thanks to the kind people at Hodder for sending the book.

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy adds a supernatural aspect to a coming of age metamorphosis, although it isn't so wild and funny. Anthony McGowan's Henry Tumour treads similar ground and is a riot.

Buy Dirty Angels by Andrew Clover at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dirty Angels by Andrew Clover at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Dirty Angels by Andrew Clover at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dirty Angels by Andrew Clover at Amazon.com.


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