Trouble by Non Pratt

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Trouble by Non Pratt

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Brilliant dual narrative features two characters with superb voices and a great plot. A wonderful debut.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: March 2014
Publisher: Walker
ISBN: 978-1406347692

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Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2015
Longlisted for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie Medal

Hannah is 15 and pregnant. She can't tell anyone who the father is - but new boy at school Aaron steps up to offer his services as a fake father. Hannah accepts, and the pair start their journey to parenthood. But who really is the dad, and why is Aaron willing to make such a massive commitment to a girl he doesn't even know that well?

I've been dying to read this ever since it was announced - Non Pratt, former editor of Catnip, is someone who I consider to be really knowledgeable about YA, and I was intrigued to see how that knowledge would show in her own writing. Of course, the danger when you're looking forward to something this much is that it can't live up to your expectations, but I'm glad to say this exceeded mine!

Where Non really triumphs is creating believable characters - particularly the narrators, who have amazing voices. When I first read the idea of the book I thought it was incredibly unlikely that any teen boy would offer to help Hannah in the way Aaron does, but as we find out more about his character, and a dark secret from his past, it makes total sense. Hannah herself - spiky, brash and quick-tempered - is wonderfully well-rounded. Non also excels at capturing the relationships between friends, both the backstabbing that goes on between the shallower teens and the real love and support shown to Hannah and Aaron by a couple of their classmates. Another brilliant character is Neville, the dirty old man whom Aaron becomes friendly with through volunteering at an old people's home. He's gruff and rude but beneath the prickly exterior lies a warm heart and a good deal of common sense.

In addition, the plot is very strong and the pacing is pretty much perfect - Non builds up very well to the answers to the questions of who the father is and of what Aaron's secret is; I was kept guessing throughout but in both cases worked it out a little bit before it was revealed. In both cases, the revelation is a satisfying one which makes complete sense without ever seeming too obvious.

Very highly recommended as one of the strongest debuts so far this year, I can't wait to read more from this talented author!

My other favourite debut of the year is the astonishingly great Far From You by Tess Sharpe. Contemporary dual narratives I've loved over the last few years include Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley and Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry.

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