4 out of 5 stars
I received an ARC from the publisher via Blogging for Books.
Based on this novels blurb I was expecting some kind of conspiracy thriller and even while reading I kept expecting some kind of revelation of a big secret. Maybe a plot twist towards the supernatural or something. But this is not what this novel is about.
It is about a fifteen year old girl struggling with life. Anais Hendricks has spent the majority of her life in state care and has been arrested again and again. She has never met her mother or any other relative. She has been moved from one foster home to the next and has now made it to the Panopticon – her last chance to redeem herself before being put away for good. She also makes a fabulous unreliable narrator.
This novel reads like a mixture of Girl, Interrupted and Trainspotting. Anais is constantly high on some drug or other – which makes her perception of reality somewhat debatable, I guess. But she is intelligent and she cares about others which makes her so much more than just a drug addicted criminal. So, what we get is a story of friendship and of a girl trying to find out who she is. It’s a novel about identity as well as a criticism of Britain’s state care system. Because it is told through Anais’ very special voice (swearing and Scottish slang included!) it is more than just a story about a girl in trouble. As a reader you get to connect to Anais and her inmates. The relationships between them and also between them and their caretakers are plausible and at times really touching.
Fagan has the ability to create characters with unique voices. Characters that are so flawed you wouldn’t want to meet them in real life. But at the same time their realness makes you see that there is more to them than their criminal records and that it’s only partly their fault that they’ve ended up the way they did.
Yes, this is a somewhat dark novel, but it’s so much more than that.