Persist by Melvin Burgess

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Persist by Melvin Burgess

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Category: Dyslexia Friendly
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A brilliant story about a girl in a persistent vegetative state, told from her point of view and that of her parents who are beginning to wonder if she will emerge from her coma. It's tense, sensitive - and dyslexia friendly. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 72 Date: April 2105
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1781124949

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When we first meet Marianne she's confused. People keep coming and looking at her, but they don't seem to see her. She wonders if she's something shiny, such as a mirror. Her family are desperate: Marianne has been in a coma for so long that even her mother is beginning to doubt that she can surface from wherever she is. The doctors are sure that there's no hope for the girl and they're talking about switching off the machines which are keeping her alive, allowing her to fade away painlessly... It all comes to a head on Marianne's fifteenth birthday.

Melvin Burgess had said that he had to struggle hard to get Persist right. It's the one of his books most full of tears and hope - and it moves him every time he reads it. It moved me too - I blubbed at the end. But that doesn't happen accidentally: we get hints of how Marianne came to be where she is - there's a mention of 'infectious diseases' - and we follow her thoughts as she tries to fight her way back to life. It's gentle, almost dreamy as her mind floats through her memories, with the counterpoint being the woman who visits her every day who is being forced into making a decision she doesn't want to make - who can't understand why the decision should be necessary.

Even more astounding is the fact that this book is dyslexia friendly. It has an interest age of teen, but the reading age is just seven - so this book is going to be accessible to the most reluctant readers and deals with a complex subject - brain death, the ending of life, the loss of a child - without being in the least bit patronising. The text is supplemented by Cathy Brett's black and white illustrations which add to the text rather than just mirroring them.

So, what makes the book dyslexia friendly? Well, firstly Barrington Stoke have designed a special font where each character is distinct and pulls the reader on to read the next word. It's printed on an off-white paper, which reduces the glare which can distract some readers and the paper is substantial enough to ensure that there's no bleed through from the reverse of the page. The spacing between words and lines has been carefully judged to give the best reading experience and the text has not been justified as this can mean that readers get lost on the page. The book has clearly defined chapters to give natural rest breaks and it's not just the reader which benefits from that - many parents and carers feel the same way. It's not only people with dyslexia which benefit from these ingenious changes - most young readers will find the books easier to read and more enjoyable. I'm just about into my dotage and recently I've been suffering from eye problems - and Barrington Stoke books are the ones which I can read most easily.

You'll find details of the reading age and interest age just to the right of the barcode on the back of the book - it's not obvious unless you know what you're looking for and kids not going to be embarrassed by it. The dyslexia-friendly sticker peels off easily and the cover design looks just like the trendy books the other kids are reading. Highly recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

For more dyslexia-friendly books for teens, have a look at Shadow Girl by Sally Nicholls, The Night Raid by Caroline Lawrence and Klaus Vogel and the Bad Lads by David Almond and Vladimir Stankovic.

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


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Olivia Levez said:

First read this review when the author shared on fb. As a teacher who also writes YA fiction, I will definitely be asking our school librarian for this one and will be recommending to struggling readers as well as bookworms. Sounds beautiful and compelling - reminds me a bit of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness...