Reviewed by Jackie Marchant
Anni is a twelve year old carer. After spending every day at school worrying, she rushes home, desperate to be there for her mother, who will go frantic if Anni is more than a second late. As well as debilitating injuries following an old accident and a terror of going beyond the dilapidated front door, Anni’s mother is convinced that every sound she hears comes from intruders who are out to get her. It is Anni’s job to scour the big old tumbledown house to convince her mother that no one is there.
But one day there is . . .
Four people in balaclavas have broken in. It’s obvious they haven’t come to steal – there is nothing worth stealing in the house – they are on a mission. Anni soon realises that their mission has something to do with the fact that the Prime Minister will be driven right by the house in thirteen hours’ time. That means the intruders have thirteen hours to prepare and the last thing they want is a terrified mother and her twelve year old daughter in the house they’d assumed was deserted.
As the thirteen hours unravel, so does Anni’s life – the intruders aren’t what they seem, her mother has secrets and hidden depths she didn’t know about, Anni finds strength she didn’t know she had and she also begins to question her way of life.
The young carer/mother situation is beautifully handled. There is a real conflict between sheer frustration at how a mother could expect so much from her child, Anni’s desperate willingness to keep things as they are or lose her mother, her mother’s guilt – and finally, the real reason behind it all, which also neatly ties in with what the intruders are doing. Very clever.
As you can imagine, by the title and the plotline, this is very much a page-turner. But there are real issues here as well – the motives of the intruders, the issue of young carers and the devastating consequences agoraphobia.
There are notes at the back of the book about agoraphobia and information for young carers – many of whom, as comes across in the book, don’t realise that is what they are.
Definitely worth a read.
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