Overall Impression: A fun children’s book with some surprisingly intelligent commentary thrown in.
I almost threw this book away. Which is crazy as a bookworm right? I’d forgotten all about this long lost novel until I found it a couple of weeks ago in a drawer I had abandoned, along with a battered old bookmark barely 18 pages in. Thinking back now I vaguely remember starting it on a school bus journey, but it seems I didn’t get very far. I literally walked right up to the bin to throw The Stolen away but I just couldn’t do it. I told myself I didn’t need another book with my tbr pile, I hadn’t even remembered I’d owned it so I would hardly miss it, and it was from an unknown author so what was the point of reading it?
I was horrified by my own thought process that a book would not be worth reading because it was not well known, sure I can’t brag about it impressively to other people like I could Jane Austen, and it’s hardly going to draw people’s attention in the blogosphere but that’s not the reason I blog, and it’s certainly not the reason I read! So just to prove myself wrong I picked it up then and there and started reading straight away, because I knew if I didn’t, it would just go back on my shelf and sit forgotten for another ten years.
And you know what? I’m glad I read it. 🙂
Life’s a game – and someone’s cheating…
Meredith is a new girl at school. An orphan, living with her elderly granny. She must be lonely – or so Carly thinks, trying to be nice.
But sometimes nice doesn’t work. Sometimes people are worse than you could ever imagine. And Meredith has a secret – a story Carly can hardly begin to believe. About a girl with no future and someone else’s past. A vicious old lady who refuses to die. A young life stolen.
For Meredith is not Meredith at all…
Carly is your average young girl with no concerns other than her unruly ginger hair and ‘podgy bits’. But she has always harboured a secret dream, she longs for a special friend to confide in. So when the new girl Meredith shows up Carly sees an exciting opportunity, but all her attempts at friendship are rebuffed. Meredith is not like other girls, she speaks strangely, is moody and has no interest in playing. But Carly is not one to give up and continues pursuing the possible friendship, and the more she tries the more she realises something about Meredith is off. Still when Meredith’s grandma Grace confides in her about astral projection, witches and lives stolen she can hardly believe her ears. Could the real young Meredith really be stuck in Grace’s old body?
I have to admit from the front cover I wasn’t expecting this book to be that great, but Alex Shearer’s writing has a unique style, and that’s what makes The Stolen worth reading. His writing seems to cut through everything that is unimportant zoning in on the meat of life with surprising clarity. None of the book is spent waffling and everything seems to be written for a reason. Many of his comments are incredibly poetic and insightful and they seem even more so coming from the mouth of Carly our young narrator. Quite often I would just stop reading after a passage and think ‘like whoa, that was deep man’.
Shearer also manages to convey for the most part a realistic childlike voice that is a mixture of naivety and intelligence which was refreshing and fun. I also loved his sense of humour, there were several passages in the book that made me laugh out loud, for instance:
’Her name?’ Meredith said. ‘It’s Grace.’
’Grace?’ I said. ‘You mean as in before meals?’
She gave me a blank look. I get a lot of those.
‘Blood is thicker than water, as people say. (But then again so is ketchup.)
I guess you would call it simplistic humour, but it’s just the kind I like, 🙂 and all the fun phrases and observations like this built up to make a really entertaining read!
This book has the best opening chapter I have read in a long time, impressive insights into life, a strong sense of voice and some juicy foreshadowing that left me excited to find out what was going on. Unfortunately though, this left me with very high expectations for the rest of the book which were never entirely met. In my opinion this was down to Shearer playing too many of his cards at once. All the foreshadowing in the first chapter worked so well, but unfortunately by the second it was already obvious what was going on with this mysterious child Meredith, even if Carly was a little slow on the uptake. I just wish the author had held in the big secret for a little longer as it would have given the plot a much better pace, fueling the reader with incentive to read on. I still really enjoyed the story, it had some great commentary on the elderlies views on the ‘young’ens’ and the children’s opinions of the ‘oldies’ but the choice of setup meant that the remainder of the novel felt quite slow, and I just felt the story could have been elevated to the next level, the author certainly had good enough writing to do it!
However, there was an extremely great plot twist in the middle which I was absolutely clueless about until it happened, so definite props for that!
The characters were all great, but the best by far was Carly. She was so vivid in my mind with her bright hair and insecurities about ‘podgy bits’, she even slightly reminded me of a girl I knew once. Her observations of the school playground were hilarious (my personal favourite was when she commented on the adults talking for a long time, and then them suddenly calling their child as if they were the one holding them up, something I still remember well, lol). She is overall thoroughly thought out with great character motivations as all her decisions can be linked back to her past experiences, wishes and dreams and I found this impressive.
Carly’s mum was also great, calling all her talks with grown-ups ‘private matters’ to her daughter, as well as having a lot of character motivations mostly fueled by fear.
Meredith I felt was the weakest link, but for reasons I can’t explain without spoilers, and Grace was also highly entertaining.
I would recommend this book to males and females, (although males might enjoy it slightly more) around the age range of 9-14 when children are knowledgeable enough to find a lot of the observations funny, but not too old so that they get bored of the linear plot. However as always that is only the age I think it is best for, because as a young adult I enjoyed it a lot, and I’m sure adults would too!
I’ll leave you again, with some cool quotes I liked. 🙂
‘Mrs Chadwick used to say the same about my English, about going round the houses. But to be honest, I like going round the houses. And as for beginning at the beginning, the reason I never start there is that I don’t know where the beginning is, and that’s the honest truth. And anyway, I’ve never known anything in my whole life that ever started at the beginning. Things aren’t like that. They usually start about halfway through, or near the end, and then work their way backwards, that’s how most things are.’
* * *
‘Time can do all sorts of things. It’s almost like a magician. It can turn autumn into spring and babies into children, seeds into flowers and tadpoles into frogs, caterpillars into cocoons, and cocoons into butterflies. And life into death. There’s nothing that time can’t do. Except run backwards. That’s its trouble really, it can only go one way.’
* * *
Writing Style: 4/5
Character Development: 4/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes.
Book Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1385222.The_Stolen