Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine

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Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine

Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: This is one of the most startling and original teen books Bookbag has read in a good long while. Witty, wise and emotionally strong, Finding Violet Park is sure to be one of the hits of the year. Don't miss it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: January 2007
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0007214456

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When sixteen year old Lucas Swain makes a new friend it's quite an event. Lucas doesn't make many friends. He prefers solitude and introspection. A new friend for Lucas is even more of an event when that friend is, well, dead. Lucas comes across Violet Park (deceased) in a cab office while on his way home. She resides in an urn on a dusty shelf in the controller's office, a piece of lost property, left in a cab some five years and never claimed. Convinced that Violet is trying to communicate with him, Lucas and his grandmother hatch a plot to rescue her from the cab office. And then the coincidences begin...

Finding Violet Park is part comedy of manners, part coming of age story, part mystery. Lucas is a typically self-centred teenager, seeing everyone in terms how they affect him. His is a fractured family. His father, a journalist, disappeared some five years before the novel begins, leaving behind a resentful and unhappy wife, a devastated son and daughter and another son whose birth he missed. Nobody knows what happened to Pete, whether he died, or simply scarpered. Lucas is obsessed by his father and finds it difficult to believe that he would have abandoned them. He resents his mother for thinking it possible.

This is all the bread and butter of realistic teen fiction. Introspection, self-indulgence, inability to empathise - these are all hallmarks of the teen existence. Growing out them is always painful. Finding Violet Park is not a bread and butter book however. Jenny Valentine has an original and idiosyncratic voice that is full of understanding and humour. I just loved this central motif of an angsty teenage boy running around with an old lady's ashes in his rucksack. It's the kind of arch, dark, classy black humour done so well in some US television comedies. Six Feet Under springs to mind. It's a very funny idea, but it's also navel-gazing enough to appeal to the most emo of miserable teenagers.

The dialogue is great, the observation is spot on. Valentine has a perfect sense of comic timing, and the book had me laughing out loud in some parts. It made my heart ache in others. There's a strong sense of immediacy and although the book isn't over-paced, it's a real page turner. I very much wanted to find out what happened next. The language and construction is fairly straightforward, which makes Finding Violet Park very easy to read, although its ideas are probably over the heads of the under 10s. The book has the originality of Mark Haddon, the immediacy of Jacqueline Wilson and the emotional connection of somebody like Kevin Brooks. It really does work.

I absolutely loved Finding Violet Park. I haven't read anything quite like it in a long time. I think Harper Collins are going to find themselves with the big hit of the spring on their hands. I do hope so. I'll be keeping up with Jenny Valentine, that's for sure.

Thanks to Harper Collins for sending the book.

Catcall by Linda Newbery also blends some magic realism into a story of family dynamics and suits slightly younger readers. Jacoby's Game by Alison Prince is a little more difficult, but would appeal to children who enjoy Violet Park.

Buy Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine at Amazon.com.


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Mike Shuttleworth said:

I agree that is a fantastic book...bit harsh on the navel-gazers, though! One thing I really liked was how well the novel exploits the mystery genre. As Jill Murphy says, "its not over-paced, but is a real page-turner". A very absorbing novel indeed.