Earlier this year, I reviewed Phil Earle's Being Billy on this site, and promised to return with his second YA novel, Saving Daisy, which is loosely linked to the first. So here is my review of Saving Daisy, which I have to say I enjoyed even more than Being Billy.
Both of these are hard-hitting YA novels, featuring young people with painfully difficult lives. As I said in my first review, it took me a while to 'get' Billy - probably no fault of the author but simply that Billy's background is a world away from my own. But Daisy was a different matter. I connected with her from the first few paragraphs - partly, perhaps, because of already having met her in Being Billy, but mainly because our personalities just clicked. Fourteen-year-old Dasiy has a problem - well, she has many problems, but right at the centre is a seething mass of poisonous guilt. Daisy blames herself for the death of her mother and has, she believes, the evidence to prove it.
Dad, although well-meaning, gives little help. He misses his wife so much he can't bear to speak of her. When Daisy asks him to look in the loft for photos of her mum, he refuses. Daisy has no other relatives and no chance to share her fears with anyone else.
At school, Daisy keeps her head down, for fear of being noticed and bullied. She's a bright girl who successfully hides her intelligence much of the time. But someone notices her and it seems, at first, that he can help. Daisy confides some of her fears and makes a friend. But then, in a frightening twist, everything is turned on its head and she's in a worse mess than ever, with even more guilt (she believes) to shoulder.
Daisy's slow and painful emergence from this state constitues the rest of the book. I don't want to give away too much, except to say that Phil Earle's experience of working with troubled and abused young people shines through every page. As far as I can tell, he is psychologically spot on, and the story of Daisy's recovery is a realistic one, though filled with so many twists and turns that it's impossible to second-guess. What I especially like is the emphasis on the hard work that Dasiy has to put in herself. Her recovery is all her own - no magic and no saviours here, except a dedicated care worker with the patience, resilience and understanding to take any amount of abuse from Daisy and let her work through things at her own pace.
Some young readers may find the book shocking in parts, though there is nothing in it that I would not want a child of mine to read, at least from the age of 12. The hope and compassion in this story is inspirational; while the darkness in Daisy's life may make you cry (it did me).
If only every needy young person could have an 'Ade' (read the book to understand what this means).
The writing is smooth and confident; the teenage voices convincing. But this is a book for adults, too, as Daisy's troubles will resonate, I believe, across every age and background.
I'm now waiting for book three. Come on, Phil Earle, let's see what you have in store for us next.
Title: Saving Daisy
Author: Phil Earle
Publication Date: 5th Jan 2012
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