Anything That Isn't This by Chris Priestley

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Anything That Isn't This by Chris Priestley

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: Frank is making the awkward transition from teen to adult in a world where everything is under the tight control of The Ministry. He is desperate for anything that isn't this, but does anyone else feel the same way?
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 480 Date: October 2015
Publisher: Hot Key Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1471404641

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Frank Palp lives in a dull, dystopian world, where The Grey pervades every aspect of life, from the food to the architecture. So insidious are these changes, that no-one seems to have noticed them, apart from Frank. His family, schoolmates and society in general seem to be completely oblivious to the sinister nature of the world around them and seem strangely content with the status quo. The all-powerful Ministry has a stranglehold on everything and everyone, with each household having its own assigned student, who records everything and reports suspicious activity to the mysterious Mr Vertex. Frank thinks he is the only person who hates this oppressive world, but one day he finds a message in a bottle with a wish for anything that isn't this, and goes on a desperate search for the person who wrote it; his potential soul-mate.

Priestley has created a Kafkaesque nightmare world, with dark, winding streets, imposing statues and a huge Gothic castle that dominates the skyline. Fact and fantasy collide and create some odd hybrids; a neighbour with living eyebrows, a grandfather who tells stories from beyond the grave and a ghost tram that travels through the city at night, picking up passengers who are never seen again. One of the more light-hearted creations is a delicacy called sckrupff, a large grey-brown sphere which is broken open with a small saw to reveal a tiny, wriggling, tadpole-like seed. When eaten, the seed explodes in a burst of intense flavour. Delicious.

Despite the dark, gloomy undertones, the book has an air of positivity and optimism that prevents things from ever seeming too oppressive. Frank is a boy in love. He has a huge crush on a girl called Olivia and his love for her gives brightness and colour to his dark world. Frank also has a passion for writing and books, and the fact that the Ministry removes the last 20 pages from every book to discourage people from reading them only serves to inspire Frank to create his own endings.

The book can seem a little hard to get into at first, as it takes time to acclimatise to this strange new world, where the laws of physics and biology are twisted to just the right degree to make the reader feel unsettled. It is definitely worth persevering, though. The grey-scale illustrations provide a fitting compliment to the narrative and are both simple and haunting in nature. One image in particular; a wild eye staring out from a swarm of wasps, has burrowed its way into a dark corner of my brain and refuses to leave...

The first thing you will want to do with this book as soon as you have finished reading it, is to go back to the beginning and read the whole thing again to see what you have missed. It is the kind of book that will provide a fresh perspective on each retelling and there are definitely small details that can be overlooked the first time around. It is a refreshingly different read that gives a few new twists to a tried and tested genre.

Bookbag also loved Mister Creecher by Chris Priestley, a fantastic homage to Shelley's Frankenstein.

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Buy Anything That Isn't This by Chris Priestley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Anything That Isn't This by Chris Priestley at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Anything That Isn't This by Chris Priestley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Anything That Isn't This by Chris Priestley at


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