Truth or Dare by Non Pratt
|Truth or Dare by Non Pratt|
|Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam|
|Summary: Another top-notch YA contemporary from the ever reliable Non Pratt, with a superb central pairing and a powerful, riveting story that explores a variety of interesting and important issues with a characteristically deft touch.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 383||Date: June 2017|
|Publisher: Walker Books|
|External links: Author's website|
After an accident leaves his brother, Kam, with severe neurodisability, it's obvious that the lives of Sef and his family will never be the same again. Plagued by feelings of guilt and struggling to cope, Sef turns all his attention to the only way that he might be able to help - money. In an attempt to raise funds for his brother's care, he enlists the help of Claire. As a volunteer at the facility looking after Kam, she's the only person from school that really appreciates just how dire Kam's situation is, and how important it is to get the funding that he needs. Aided by Claire's equipment and YouTube know-how, the two create a channel where their alter-egos, Truth Girl and Dare Boy, play an escalating game of Truth or Dare to persuade viewers to donate to their cause. However, £60,000 is no small amount, and fundraising through YouTube is no easy feat. Just how far are they willing to go for their cause?
There's a reason that not everyone becomes a YouTube celebrity. It takes time, resources, painstaking work and more often than not, a healthy heaping of luck. It's hard enough drawing in viewer attention in the first place, to stand out among the hundreds of channels trying to succeed with the same concept; but the real challenge is in keeping that hard-earned attention, despite hours of new videos being uploaded every second. For every YouTube sensation, there are thousands of channels that barely see the light of day, and it’s clear from the spot-on portrayal of social media and internet culture that Non Pratt is well aware. The challenges that Claire and Sef face, the ideas they have, the decisions they make, all feel grounded and realistic. We get a powerful insight into just how challenging it can be on a personal level, to put yourself out there video after video, at the mercy of the whims of your viewers. The Internet has always been a double-edged sword, and YouTube is no different. There's potential to effect change, educate and innovate, make a living and achieve incredible feats of fundraising. But the very freedom, accessibility and ease of use that gives it so much potential, also open it up to abuse.
The premise alone was interesting enough to keep me reading, but it was the quality of the characterisation, especially of the central pair, that had me completely hooked. Told in three parts, the story starts from Claire's point of view, then flips to Sef's voice, before entwining the two together for the climax. Despite sacrificing the smoother flow of a more orthodox alternating narrative, it's a choice that pays off. Claire is instantly likeable and sympathetic, and telling the bulk of the main plot through her voice had me already strongly rooting for the pair, before the addition of Sef's more temperamental voice stepped up the emotional stakes. His section brings the relationships with his parents and brothers to the fore, magnifying the impact of Kam's accident as we see just how much of an effect it has had on all their lives. I was drawn in by the intensity of his desperation. His willingness to do anything for Kam ramps up the tension as the pair start to take more risks to try to keep the donations flowing.
I loved the superbly developed relationship between Sef and Claire. I was completely won over by the way in which their initial connection, over the shared understanding of Kam's situation, grows as the witty, flirtatious banter that they script for their onscreen characters starts to evolve into something more real. Sef's charisma and bravado help bring Claire out her shell, while her warm, soothing presence keeps him grounded. No good YA contemporary is complete without friends of course, and there are some good ones on both sides, with Claire’s friendships, in particular, making for a small but strong story arc
There's tonnes to admire here. Characters and relationships are wonderfully realised, diverse and realistic. The plot is superbly structured and builds up to a powerful, emotional punch of a climax. And that's without even getting into just how deftly the story touches upon a whole host of interesting and important topics such as disability, internet shaming, sexual assault and income inequality, to name but a few. Staggering just how much the book manages to achieve in under 400 pages, all the while remaining a thoroughly enjoyable read. Can't wait to see what Non comes up with next!
My thanks to the lovely publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag!
You can read more book reviews or buy Truth or Dare by Non Pratt at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Truth or Dare by Non Pratt at Amazon.com.
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