Carnaby by Cate Sampson

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Carnaby by Cate Sampson

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Intense crime thriller with an unreliable narrator. It's an electric read and a fantastic debut. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: July 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 147111581X

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Sarah's mother was murdered and Sarah found the body. Agonisingly, she didn't even realise she'd found the body at first - Sarah thought her mother was asleep on the sofa. But she wasn't. Borys - Sarah's sister Jude's boyfriend - has been accused of the murder and the trial is coming up, with Sarah as a key witness. A school counsellor, a lawyer and a police officer are all trying to prepare her, but Sarah can't think about that. It's too dangerous. And she has more than a court case on her plate. Sister Jude is about to give birth to her second baby and Sarah can see that the social workers are worried. Jude is washed out, finding it difficult to cope. What if the baby gets taken away? What if she and Jude are separated? Can Sarah manage to keep them all together?

I absolutely loved Carnaby. I say that a lot, but I mean it. I always enjoy an unreliable narrator and here, the tension really does hinge upon Sarah and how much of what she says and thinks you can believe. And just to add another layer, it also depends on how much Sarah can trust her own self and her own memories. She remembers finding her mother's body, but then there's a blank period. She was in shock. How can she be expected to bring back that terrible period? As the book goes on, you, the reader, realise that Sarah remembers more than she's letting on. But how much more? And what is so terrible that she won't - can't - speak of it? What could be more terrible than your own mother's murder? Don't expect the first reveal to be the last. There are many because Carnaby has skilled and clever plotting. I'd better not say more. I hate a spoiler.

Sarah draws you into her world. A world where most things are pretty awful - no money, few friends, a slum to live in, gangs all around - and in which the only thing left to lose is what remains of your family. Everything Sarah does, or doesn't do, is driven by the fear of being separated from Jude, Em, and the new baby. It doesn't matter how dreadful everything else is. As long as they stay together. It's heartbreaking and often painful to read. But it's also electrifying. You can't be sure what's happening and so you turn the pages in a rush, with everything crossed for poor Sarah even though it seems almost as though she sometimes reaches out from the pages, doing her best to alienate everyone, even you, the reader.

Carnaby is a fantastic, intense crime thriller with an unreliable narrator. It's about more than murder: it's about failing families, social class, drugs, sex abuse, failing interventions, fear, grief and loneliness. It's an electric read and a fantastic YA debut. Highly recommended.

By the way. PS. I almost forgot to say. You can download an excerpt from Carnaby for free via Simon & Schuster's The Blurb newsletter right here. You get lots of other stuff too, so I think you should do it. Now!

If you like the look of Carnaby, you might also enjoy Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd, The Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine or Blood Family by Anne Fine. We also have a review of Sampson's Splintered Light.

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Buy Carnaby by Cate Sampson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Carnaby by Cate Sampson at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Carnaby by Cate Sampson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Carnaby by Cate Sampson at


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