This interesting writer always focuses on children who are experiencing particularly difficult times in their lives. From personal correspondence I know that this is because of incidents in her own background and subsequent concerns that all such children can read stories that may reflect their own family circumstances. She hopes that other readers with easier home lives may develop a sense of empathy through reading her stories. These are very serious points but the biggest test for writers of children’s books is that they communicate a view of the world through well written compelling plots and characters. Like Jacqueline Wilson, Anne Fine, Alan Gibbons and many other contemporary writers, Kate Maryon does this very skilfully as she effectively captures the readers interest in the first few pages. In fact, I think she does it with a particularly convincing fierceness and passion that may be because of her personal experiences. Here we are introduced to the narrative voice of twelve year old Gabriella who lives with her rather pathetic dad and horrible soon to be step mother, Amy who clearly does not like children. It’s a shame that this is another wicked stepmother story, but sadly it does ring true. Before her arrival we learn that dad and Gabriella have lived alone together pretty cosily for some years since her mother left them behind taking her much loved older half brother Beckett with her. There are strong hints at domestic violence in this previous relationship with both dad and both children being victims of a controlling and violent woman. She loves her dad but also knows that he is very weak and nothing like an ideal parent.
This is a heartbreaking story about a girl who is made homeless by neglectful, uncaring adults who instead pursue their own selfish interests. Her lonely journey to Manchester, ostensibly to live with her estranged mother who is now in another relationship and has a new family to dominate, is fraught with difficult and dangerous adventures. She is ultimately searching for her older brother but along the way begins to form tenuous but loving relationships with her two younger half siblings. Before spending time with them Gabriella is living on the streets of Manchester for some weeks below the official radar. This gives her some truly frightening experiences but also shows the reader a world of kind, resilient, sometimes very damaged young homeless people who help and support one another. If this subject matter is making adults anxious on behalf of their sensitive children, please be reassured that it does have an ultimately positive resolution.
Shockingly, it seems that that this fictional happy ending is not often mirrored in the real world. It is an authentic story as it is endorsed with a preface written by the Head of Policy of ‘Railway Children’, a charity that works with vulnerable runaways and homeless young teenagers and then an afterword by the Founder and Editor in Chief of ‘The Big Issue’. As the title suggests, these are children who are rarely seen or acknowledged by mainstream caring society. As such, this well written poignant book needs to be read more widely by children and adults to stimulate discussion and hopefully drive campaigns for further preventative support.
14th October 2015