Saturday 9 June 2012

HE'S AFTER ME by Chris HIggins. Reviewed by Adèle Geras

I've recently chaired he Judging Panel for the Lancashire Book of the Year award. This is my sixth year in the job and I keep doing it because it's the most terrific fun. The prize is judged ENTIRELY by Year 9 pupils from Lancashire Schools and our shortlist always presents us with books that are quite different from the Carnegie, Costa and other book awards.
This year, as we moved into our final debate, one girl only had chosen Chris Higgins's novel as her top favourite but by her eloquence and passion she managed to turn around the votes of more than a dozen of her co-judges (and to be fair, there were lots of people who did love Chris's book already!) to sweep this author to her prize. This will be awarded in Preston on June 30th and it will be a dazzling occasion as ever.
So what about the book? I was very pleased with this result because what He's After Me has in abundance is that most valuable of all literary qualities: unputdownability. It's the story of Anna and Jem. She's besotted with him and vice versa...or maybe not. This is a thriller told from Anna's point of view, though there are passages in italics all the way through from someone else's viewpoint. Jem, we can see as we're reading, has problems. Anna can sort of understand that they're there, these problems, but she's madly in love and gets swept away and persuaded into doing all kinds of things she'd never normally do. Her sister becomes involved. Her father and his new wife and their fancy flat are very important. The whole thing moves along at a good pace and you are always eager to turn the page, to see whether Anna really is going to do what she's intending to and whether Jem is really what he purports to be.
The book is well written and all the characters are believable. The teenage panel agreed that it was touching, exciting, romantic and convincing in every way. They really did love it, the boys as well as the girls, and while I was reading the shortlist it was one of the ones I'd most enjoyed reading too. I'm delighted for Chris Higgins who was shortlisted last year and really deserves a prize for ticking every single box this year and sweeping all before her. And I'm always happy when a thriller wins anything because although crime is the most popular genre of all, it doesn't win many prizes when it's up against other more literary books. Hurray!
PUBLISHER: Hodder Books, FORMAT paperback. PRICE:£6.99 ISBN: 9780340997017


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