Reviewed by JackieMarchant
This is a story about
bullying, about identity, about caring for your little brother, about loss and
grief, about a mad but caring teacher – and about some swans.
Still devastated by the
sudden loss of his father, Johnny has had to leave his childhood home and move
to a tiny high-rise flat with his mother and brother Mojo. Even worse, he has to start a new school. All he wants to do is fit in, but he is
targeted by a gang of bullies, led by a small, but particularly nasty
Liam. When Liam is attacked by a swan
while in the process of tormenting Johnny, a new nick-name is bandied about the
school by all those who’d rather it was Johnny being bullied than them – Swan
But Johnny felt something
– a connection with the swan. Yet exploring
this further would mean not fitting in, so he tries to deny it. At the same time, he shuns any attempt at
friendship from another boy being bullied.
He even starts being nasty to the little brother he’s supposed to be
taking care of – because that is what is expected of teenagers.
Then, horror of horrors,
Johnny is invited to partake in a dance for the school as a way of getting out
of litter duty. Bad enough, without the fact that the whole gang of bullies are
involved as well. Then, he is given the
leading role in the production of none other than Swan Lake.
This is where the mad but
big-hearted teacher comes in, trying to introduce the ‘hopeless cases’ to
something as completely not fitting in as dance. At the same time, the connection between
Johnny and the swan is growing until he feels just like the prince in swan lake
– turning into a swan.
As Johnny denies who he
is in order to fit, he finds himself hurting others and racked with guilt. Then his little brother Mojo, having his own
problems at junior school, comes out with a devastating secret.
Yet, throughout this
journey of self-discovery and confusion, it is obvious that Johnny and his
family are close. He cares deeply for
Mojo and his struggling mother obviously cares deeply for them both – she too
is coping with grief. For me this made a
refreshing change from the uncaring or absent parent and somehow made Johnny’s
plight more profound.
It’s simply written, easy
to read with bursts of unexpected humour.
It’s not a deep and gloomy book, but an uplifting one and I enjoyed it
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