London Riots Writ Large: Feral Youth by Polly Courtney

Posted by Justine Solomons on August 13, 2013, in Recommendations

Buy this book.

Review by Justine Solomons.

I remember watching the 2011 London Riots and being amazed, but also thinking ‘this is inevitable isn't it?’ Our capitalist society just isn't fair. Things like this are bound to happen when the gap between rich and poor is so big and continually getting bigger. As one of the lucky few, I'm not one who wants to upset the balance; but Courtney has done a brave thing with this book. Her expose of City life, Golden Handcuffs was great and similarly thought-provoking, but this book is even better!

Alisha is 15. She is expelled from school at the start of the book, although her school teacher, Miss Merryfield, continues to play a big part in her life.  She has never known her father, left her crack-head mother and now lives with her ‘fam’ (best friend), JJ and JJ's demented nan.  But when JJ's nan is taken into care, Alisha and JJ have to stay with his crew, or else be homeless.  Alisha eventually does something to anger the crew and loses her ‘cotch’ (place to hang out).

All of this happens with a backdrop of mounting tension in SE5. Something is about to kick off and we, the reader, know it’s going to be the riots and it ain't going to be pretty.

I think it must be really hard to write a book like this especially as a middle class person, afforded all the privileges in life, without being condescending; but Courtney handles the subject matter really well. Alisha's voice and those around her are utterly convincing. I raced through to the end not wanting a comfortable, happy ending but keen to see how the novel would conclude.   I am very happy Polly ditched her old publisher and got out from under the pink chick-lit covers.

Say it loud and say it proud, this book is self-published and EXCELLENT!  Polly, hats off to you girl you've pulled a blinder with this one!


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