Crash by J A Henderson

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Crash by J A Henderson

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A genuinely alarming thriller for confident readers at late primary and very early secondary levels. The narrative has several threads which slowly converge and while the writing style is simple, thematically the book gives lots of pause for thought.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: April 2008
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0192720791

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Bobby Berlin and his father Gordon are returning home from a visit to the cinema in Edinburgh when their train grinds to a halt on the Forth Bridge. A workman falls to his death before their horrified eyes. The trauma of the accident catapults Gordon into some kind of pyschotic break - he now thinks he's a fourteen year old boy by the name of Dodd Pollen. He think it's 1977. At home in Puddledub, Bobby finds himself looking after his own father. Bobby's friend Mary thinks something strange is going on. Her grandmother, a Romany, meets a young boy who also has amnesia. And out in the North Sea, events are equally ominous. Ships are sinking, fish are dying, and everywhere there is a smell of sulphur...

... could it be a tsunami in Scotland?

Oh, I did enjoy reading Crash. It has a simple writing style, approachable by any confident reader of ten and up, but it isn't a simple book. There are several plot strands - Bobby's picaresque, Gordon's amnesia and how it ties into his mysterious past, Mary's family background, and the impending natural disaster. None of the protagonists are fully aware of these separate stories and the real mystery is how they will fit together. And every loose end is wonderfully tied up by the end.

The book may be easy to read, on the face of it a modern day quest adventure, but it's has great thematic depth. Both Bobby and Mary are lonely children, not only by circumstance, but also by dishonesty from the people who care for them. Children know when they're being deceived, even if only subconsciously. There's also, obviously, a strong environmental theme, dealing with man's irresponsible and gung-ho attitude and addiction to fossil fuels. A couple of genuine news reports in the afterword lend credence to the tsunami premise.

Ultimately, though, Crash is an adventure story in the best tradition - it doesn't rely on technological gadgetry or ludicrous chase scenes in constructing its thrills. It's well-constructed, with sympathetic and credible characters. And it's thoroughly enjoyable

My thanks to the nice people at OUP for sending the book.

If they like the sound of Crash, they might also enjoy Jigsaw by Garry Kilworth which goes slightly further with the sci-fi and fantasy elements.

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