Coming Of Age #YA set in 1980s #Portsmouth Lucky Star by @1HollyCurtis #TuesdayBookBlog

Lucky StarLucky Star by Holly Curtis

4.5 stars

Lucky Star is a coming of age, young adult novel, set in a 1980s Portsmouth council estate.

Sixteen year old Ben Somerset is about to leave school, but like so many young people, then and today, he doesn’t know what he might want to do. Currently he mixes with a colourful collection of friends and acquaintances. They meet, most nights, outside a community centre, discussing clothes, music, girls and life.

The author paints a realistic picture for those on the cusp of adulthood; there are dalliances with drugs, underage drinking, theft and bullying. With the opportunities of the world before them, what directions will the friends all take and why?

I liked this author’s style, the dialogue was well written, and the characters were easy to identify with, especially by their nicknames. This made them feel like genuine teenagers; children frequently give each other nicknames, which I think it is one of life’s constants.

As the book is set almost forty years ago, Ben and his friends used landline telephones, listened to vinyl records and had the freedom to go off for hours without their parents being at the end of a mobile phone. But once you strip away the clothes and accessories, how different were these kids from those of different generations? Ben played a song he loved, over and over. He wanted to dress like his friends or the ones he admired. He experienced the heady feelings of first love. He succumbed to peer pressure. He went out drinking. What I found interesting was that these elements could all be relevant to more than one era of teens who are balancing on the edge of adulthood.

Overall, a very good piece of work suited to this genre, but also very readable for those who were, perhaps themselves, teenagers in the 80s.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

Teenager Ben Somerset has three great loves in his life: Sherlock Holmes, designer clothes and a certain song by Madonna. And then Susie appears.

Set in England in 1984 Lucky Star tells of Ben’s introduction to the world of shoplifting, music, politics, love and heartbreak.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Whispers In The Alders by @HA_Callum Coming of Age tale

Today’s team review is from E.L, she blogs here http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L has been reading Whispers In the Alders by HA Callum

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Whispers in the Alders by H. A. Callum is an American based coming of age story. It is a thought provoking, lyrical novel that is permeated with an air of tragedy.

The novel is written in first person narrative from the point of view of Aubrey Worthington, the only child of an affluent couple. Due to the peripatetic nature of her father’s job, Aubrey has spent her life moving around the country which has made it hard for her to fit in. She’s a lonely, introspective girl until her arrival at Alder Ferry when she is thirteen. It is here that she forms a deep friendship with local boy, Tommy.

Callum uses his novel to raise lots of interesting ideas. Aubrey’s father is the Vice President of a conglomerate that takes over companies, assimilating their contracts and ultimately making the workers redundant. Aubrey refers to her father as the “grim reaper”. What’s unusual is the way that we see how Stuart Worthington’s job impacts upon his daughter who, along with her father, becomes hated by the communities in which they live. The Worthingtons buy their first home in Alder Ferry, a grand colonial house which is ironic given the nature of Stuart’s job. Although we sympathise with the concept of the workers losing their jobs Callum does not humanise them enough to allow us any perspective other than that of Aubrey.

Callum is obviously a skilled writer and his use of language is complex and dense. This is particularly the case when he describes the woods that are overlooked by Aubrey’s house. The house is personified as “The Grand Old Lady” and her surroundings are presented as somewhat mystical. The trees that form the Alders are given a life of their own, evoking both energy and a sense of peace that Aubrey has not known before.

The small town of Alder Ferry is also brought to life through Callum’s language. The desolation of the town and lack of opportunity cements the Catholic Church as the centre of the community. The novel questions the way this power allows abuse within the church to be overlooked as people are afraid to challenge the Priest’s authority and potentially lose the only sense of certainty that they have.

Alton “Tommy” Mackey is the heart of the novel. He is the grandson of Stuart Worthington’s nemesis, Mike Genardo and Aubrey’s only friend. Mike Genardo is the head of the union and a brutal drunk who subjects Tommy to a childhood defined by fear and loneliness. Tommy’s only refuge is reading and writing poetry and despite little encouragement or education, he is a talented, intelligent boy who inspires Aubrey to embrace her own learning. Tommy struggles with his sexuality and it is only in adulthood that he is able to accept who he is and find some semblance of happiness.

The comparison between Tommy and Aubrey is stark and really brings home the inequality of an education system dependent on wealth. Aubrey’s affluent background ensures that she goes to a good university despite the fact that it is Tommy who edits her work. Meanwhile Tommy is unable to fulfill his potential and has to join the Coast Guards in order to raise the money to pay for some classes at the community college.

If Tommy is the heart of the story then, for me, Aubrey is its Achilles heel. I really didn’t like her and didn’t fully understand whether I was supposed to. Initially I assumed that she was a purposefully unreliable witness to the events she was describing. Her childhood wasn’t ideal with a driven, morally bankrupt father and functioning alcoholic mother but she’s presented as a whiny, self-obsessed voice. I felt that Callum had maybe chosen not to humanise the parents in order to depict the simplistic, self-involved way that children see life. However about two thirds of the way in, it became clear that there was no ambiguity and they were in fact the monsters that Aubrey described, as were most of the residents of Alder Ferry. I wonder if the story might have benefited from a lighter touch and less of a sense that everything is in black and white.

As I have said Callum’s skill as writer is never in any doubt, his use of language is extremely impressive. However, strangely I found that the complexity of the language sometimes got in the way of the narrative as it slowed everything down. None the less, this is a novel that is well worth reading as it raises so many relevant questions.

If you’re looking for something that may not be an easy read but will certainly get you thinking then I recommend that you give this one a try.

Book Description

Alder Ferry would have been just another nondescript suburb living in the shadow of its urban parent if not for one detail: the mysterious stand of alder trees anchoring the town to its past and standing as a reminder to the wilderness that once stood in its place.

In the shadows of the alders a boy named Tommy found refuge. There, an eclectic book collection was his only companion through a tumultuous childhood, serving as his escape from the brutal realities of his life. That was, until Aubrey appeared.

Born of different worlds, the alders become their escape while their unlikely friendship blossoms into a love that few people ever come to understand or enjoy—proving that true friendship is a romantic pursuit in its purest form.

Together they come of age in a town hostile to their friendship—a friendship that challenges the intersecting boundaries of class, gender and sexuality. Prejudice and privilege masquerade to destroy their dreams while class, gender and faith collide. All are tested as Tommy and Aubrey carry each other through their teen years and into adulthood.

Whispers in the Alders is an impassioned experience that will test the emotions and is a story that will linger with the reader long after the last page is turned.

About the author

H.A. Callum

Of all the hats I have worn, the only one that has truly defined me is that of the writer. Whatever has happened, and wherever I have been, writing has always been my guidepost.

Writing has been the best way to examine life while contrasting it to the “what ifs” and “why nots” that surround the marquis events of our existence. This is also why we read: to give us a greater understanding of our own lives through the lens of characters that face similar challenges as we do.

I’m glad you stopped in to visit. I hope you enjoy what you read here and take some of it along with you to share. As always, I am most interested in what you – my readers – have to say.

The light is always on and the keyboard endlessly humming along, through late nights and endless cups of coffee. It’s a writer’s life!

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter

 

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Whispers In The Alders by @HA_Callum #fridayreads #litfic

Today’s second team review comes from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Whispers In The Alders by H A Callum

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WHISPERS IN THE ALDERS by H A Callum

4.5 out of 5 stars

I received a review copy of this book from the author for an honest review.

This book was submitted to Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team, of which I am a member.  Interestingly, I didn’t initially choose it as the genre and blurb didn’t particularly appeal, but then I got talking to the author on Twitter (about something else entirely) and he asked me if I would take a review copy.  I’m glad I did.

Lesson for readers: don’t bypass books just because they don’t immediately appeal; you never know what gems you might find behind that quiet cover.

Lesson for writers: talk to people on social media!

Whispers in the Alders is set in the small east US town of Alder Ferry, where young teenagers Aubrey (female) and Tommy both suffer loveless, cold childhoods.  Aubrey’s family are wealthy, whereas Tommy’s are poorer, and his life is quite brutal.  They meet in a wooded area behind Aubrey’s family home, amongst the alders, a place that both of them feel is ‘home’.

The book starts in the present, with Aubrey in Portland, Maine, as an adult; she has left her family and the prejudices of the small town long behind.  It then goes back to her early teens, and the loneliness she feels.  The books spans the period of this time until early adulthood, and follows the tragedies of her and Tommy’s lives.

I’d class this book as literary fiction, as well as a contemporary ‘coming of age’ story.  Much of the writing is beautiful; I read that Mr Callum is a poet, too, and this is evident, but it’s not wordy for the sake of it.  It’s quite a dense sort of novel, with much description, and on occasion I felt it could have been trimmed down just a little, but that’s just personal preference, and I certainly appreciated every line.  The plot itself develops slowly, with some shocking outcomes (child abuse and homophobia, but nothing graphic), and it’s perfectly plotted.  It’s a heartrending, lonely sort of book; I longed for Aubrey and Tommy to find happiness.

A hidden gem by an extremely talented writer, very American (which I liked), and one I definitely recommend ~ I hope some other members of Rosie’s team pick it up, or that anyone who reads this takes the plunge and clicks ‘buy’!

Book Description

Alder Ferry would have been just another nondescript suburb living in the shadow of its urban parent if not for one detail: the mysterious stand of alder trees anchoring the town to its past and standing as a reminder to the wilderness that once stood in its place.

In the shadows of the alders a boy named Tommy found refuge. There, an eclectic book collection was his only companion through a tumultuous childhood, serving as his escape from the brutal realities of his life. That was, until Aubrey appeared.

Born of different worlds, the alders become their escape while their unlikely friendship blossoms into a love that few people ever come to understand or enjoy—proving that true friendship is a romantic pursuit in its purest form.

Together they come of age in a town hostile to their friendship—a friendship that challenges the intersecting boundaries of class, gender and sexuality. Prejudice and privilege masquerade to destroy their dreams while class, gender and faith collide. All are tested as Tommy and Aubrey carry each other through their teen years and into adulthood.

Whispers in the Alders is an impassioned experience that will test the emotions and is a story that will linger with the reader long after the last page is turned.

About the author

H.A. Callum

Of all the hats I have worn, the only one that has truly defined me is that of the writer. Whatever has happened, and wherever I have been, writing has always been my guidepost.

Writing has been the best way to examine life while contrasting it to the “what ifs” and “why nots” that surround the marquis events of our existence. This is also why we read: to give us a greater understanding of our own lives through the lens of characters that face similar challenges as we do.

I’m glad you stopped in to visit. I hope you enjoy what you read here and take some of it along with you to share. As always, I am most interested in what you – my readers – have to say.

The light is always on and the keyboard endlessly humming along, through late nights and endless cups of coffee. It’s a writer’s life!

Goodreads | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | Twitter