The Fallen Children by David Owen
|The Fallen Children by David Owen
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy
|Summary: Riffing on the sci-fi classic The Midwich Cuckoos, The Fallen Children is not only a tense and satisfying read but also a powerful voice advocating for young people, whose choices and opportunities have been restricted the most during the austerity imposed after the financial crisis. We loved it.
|Date: May 2017
|External links: Author's website
It's quite difficult to write a review of a book that riffs on a sci-fi classic without spoiling anything. You know? So I'll just say that The Fallen Children riffs on John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos and leave it at that. If you don't know the book, it won't matter. If you do, don't worry: it's not just an updated rewrite. I don't think that spoiled anything, did it?
Life is tough on the Midwich Estate. Kids living there don't have much hope in the future. They're already judged by their poverty, their religion, their race. Carving out a prosperous future from this inauspicious place seems like a pipe dream. But, in their various ways, Siobhan, Keisha, Maida and Morris are all trying - whether that means making plans to get out, or developing strategies to cope with life as it has been dealt.
But things are about to change...
... one night, there is a blackout on the Midwich. Nobody knows what caused it. But shortly afterwards, four of the girls on the estate find themselves pregnant - an impossibility, since none of them has had unprotected sex. And if that weren't weird enough, the pregnancies progress at an alarming rate. As news spreads through the estate, the other residents become first rattled, then outright hostile. And things go from bad to worse when the strange children are born.
So this is a sci-fi story of alien violation, just like its inspiration The Midwich Cuckoos. But it's also a story of contemporary youth, in which young people try to defy expectations imposed upon them. I really enjoyed it as a mix of gritty contemporary realism and sci-fi thriller. It's told in short, sharp chapters from the points of view of the four main characters - Siobhan, Keisha and Maida, three of the four pregnant girls, and Morris, a boy from the estate who is in love with Keisha. It's pacy and exciting and a real page-turner. These four central characters are also fully rounded - you're rooting for them all the way, but it doesn't mean that they are perfect. Keisha, in her quest to make it to university, has cruelly jettisoned best friend and boyfriend. Siobhan can be cutting and mean herself. Morris is a fool with money and not immune to a bit of stupidly macho posturing.
I won't say any more but I do think you should read The Fallen Children. It's an interesting premise, has great pace, and a thoroughly absorbing sense of claustrophobia in the setting confined to a tower block. And it has a great deal to say about the weight of expectation we place on young people, without providing the opportunities to go with it.
And on that note - before I go, I would just like to give a great big shout out David Owen's foreword to The Fallen Children. In it, he says, Young people are not properly nurtured in the UK. He goes on to talk about tuition fees, youth unemployment, the restriction of social security benefits for the young, the youth mental health crisis. And yet, as opportunities and life chances are taken away, these young people are still labelled as lazy, entitled and self-obsessed. David Owen is right: it really, really sucks. I am the mother of two of those young people. I know I'm biased because they are mine, but they aren't lazy, entitled and self-obsessed. They're great. And I'm thankful to anyone speaking up for them. Thank you, David. We need more like you and this is one reason I love to read YA fiction, despite rattling ever closer to wizened old fool status. It's full of wonderful writers who advocate for our young people.
If you like the idea of a contemporary YA author riffing on classics, you could also try Nicholas Dane by Melvin Burgess which uses Oliver Twist. And there are two takes on Shakespeare's Othello: Exposure by Mal Peet and Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman. You might also enjoy All the Lonely People by David Owen.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Fallen Children by David Owen at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Fallen Children by David Owen at Amazon.com.
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