Wild East by Ashley Hickson-Lovence

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Wild East by Ashley Hickson-Lovence

Buy Wild East by Ashley Hickson-Lovence at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Immediate, engaging and an emotional read…I loved Ronny, and I was rooting for him all the way!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: May 2024
Publisher: Penguin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780241645444

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Written in verse, this is Ronny's story, a young black fourteen year old boy from Hackney who suddenly has to move to Norwich and start at a mostly white school. The move is initiated by Ronny's mum who is worried for Ronny's safety after a tragic event, and so Ronny finds himself trying to settle in a new town, a new school, and keep himself out of trouble. He listens to music constantly, and has always dreamed of being a rapper. But now, in this new school, his teacher encourages him to be part of a poetry writing workshop group and, slowly, Ronny begins to see the connections between rap and poetry, and the power of creativity and crafting your words.

Being written in verse makes this a fast and accessible read. Some readers might wonder if it's a gimmick, and I honestly wasn't sure about it as I started the book. But I quickly forgot that I was reading almost one long poem, and just found myself enjoying the pace and the rhythm of the book, and Ronny himself who is a good kid, and who you grow to love through the story. The technique of using poetry means there's no space for anything extra. Every word is for a reason, and it makes everything feel immediate and personal. Ronny was quickly alive in my mind, and his life felt very real as I read more and more. It's a little like reading his diary, as the book is written in month by month sections over the course of one year and you see Ronny as he slowly grows in confidence.

There are some illustrations through the book that help with that accessible reading experience. The format of the writing means that the pages don't look intimidating, and perhaps make it a book that a non-reader teen might be enticed to read. There is a very small amount of swearing in the book, but it's nothing that teens won't have heard already (much worse!) at school.

Although the topics covered are dark, with everything from child death, county lines, racism, violence and refugees in there, there is a strand of hope that runs throughout. Ronny's grief isn't explored in depth, and yet you still feel it vividly in small moments of his life - there is a part in the book where he goes for a football trial in his new town, and in just a few lines it made me feel emotional. In another part of the book, Ronny makes a bad decision and I was fairly shouting at him in my head! Overall, in spite of the difficult moments, it still remains a positive story, and it is one where even though the headteacher at the school is clearly exhausted, he still has time to listen and to raise others up. And in amongst the hustle and bustle of a busy secondary school, there is an English teacher who sees Ronny's potential and believes in him, and champions him until he starts to believe in himself. And whilst we witness one of the very worst things happen to another young boy because of a small group of bad people, there are many, many more good people who try to make something positive come of it. I really like books that have that lift and positivity to them, touching on the darkness but always looking towards the light.

Having read it, I would now like to listen to the audio book as read by the author. I think that would be an extra special experience, since there were often moments in the book where I was tempted to read parts out loud to myself. I think hearing the author's own emphasis on certain words and phrases, and even just the places where he chooses to pause, would be fascinating to hear. It's a great story, told in an interesting way, with a really likeable leading character - definitely one we'd recommend!

For more novels written in verse, you might like to try The Crossover by Kwame Alexander or The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan.

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Buy Wild East by Ashley Hickson-Lovence at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wild East by Ashley Hickson-Lovence at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.

Buy Wild East by Ashley Hickson-Lovence at Amazon You could get a free audio download of Wild East by Ashley Hickson-Lovence with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy Wild East by Ashley Hickson-Lovence at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wild East by Ashley Hickson-Lovence at Amazon.com.


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