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Feral Youth by Polly Courtney
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Feral Youth

by Polly Courtney

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1111,231,247 (4)3
The truth is, it ain't just a race thing. They talk like it is, but really and truly it's black against white, young against old, authorities against the rest. It's countless of things. There's bare reasons for feeling vexed right now. Growing up on a south London estate and excluded from every school that would take her, Alesha is the poster girl for the nation's 'feral youth'. When a young teacher makes an unexpected reappearance in the 15-year-old's life, opening the door to a world of salaries, pianos and middle-class housemates, Alesha's instinct is to pull up her hood and return to the streets. But fuelled by a need to survive, she falls into a cycle of crime, violence and drug-dealing, her one true ally deserting her when she needs him most. While everyone around her is rallying against the authorities in a war of haves and have-nots, Alesha finds herself caught in the crossfire, inextricably linked to the people she is trying to fight against. Can she see a way out? And as riots sweep the nation, whose side will she take?Born in South London and a resident of Ealing, an area affected by the London riots, Polly wrote Feral Youth 'to give a voice to the thousands of frustrated youths who, like Alesha, feel marginalised and ignored by the rest of society'. She believes that the real causes of the riots have not gone away and that further unrest will happen in a matter of time. Feral Youth is a work of contemporary adult fiction that covers various topical themes, including the riots, youth culture, gangs and knife and gun crime. It sits alongside Stephen Kelman's Pigeon English and Emma Donoghue's Room in that it is aimed primarily at the adult reader and provides an alternative perspective on a world we think we know.… (more)

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» See also 3 mentions

Wasn't sure I'd like this - as a Daily Mail (!) reader who felt 100% anger at the recent riots in London, doubted I could be made to care about a blade-toting 15 year old girl.
But I have to say I really got involved in Ms Courtney's novel about Alesha, child of an alcoholic mother who has somehow fallen through the system. Her only 'fam' is childhood friend JJ, but he is getting caught up into gang life and its consequences, and nothing will be the same:
"the worst thing is the idea that JJ's cheeky swagger is gone for good. It ain't the cuffs or the bars - it's the way it's changing him."
As Alesha experiences homelessness, drug dealing and more, she encounters Miss Merfield, a teacher from her old school, determined to show her a better life. But will she pursue it?
Perhaps Miss Merfield was a little saintly, her own life unbelievably and conveniently sad. And Alesha's mindset was irritating at times. But a really strong novel, keeps you involved to the end. ( )
  starbox | Mar 21, 2014 |
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