First let me say that I haven’t read a YA novel in some time, and although this is aimed at older teens, it actually puts to shame some adult psychological thrillers I have read recently. Following “The Deviants”, I will definitely be looking for other books by this author.
CJ Skuse has the perfect voice for storytelling and in this case her vehicle is Ella, the teen protagonist of this particular novel.
To avoid some fairly major spoilers, I’m not going to go into great detail about the plot. Suffice to say that the subject matter of this book is pretty dark. It deals with situations and circumstances that may trigger some bad memories in people who have experienced similar, but it is dealt with sensitively, and most importantly, realistically.
Back to Ella – she’s a real teenager – intelligent, talented, immature, flawed and confused, but in other situations, mature and brave and kind – a conflicting bundle of emotions and behaviours – but not the grumpy, selfish Bella Swan (Twilight) stereotype that we have been inundated with over the last few years. I found myself wondering if I, as a woman in her early 40s would be able to deal as well as Ella did with some of the situations she found herself in, and came to the conclusion – probably not!
The Deviants has so many themes that it shouldn’t work. It should overload you but it doesn’t – CJ Skuse has really managed to pull off a richly detailed book with rounded and flawed characters covering relationships, bullying, guilt, illness, perception, protection, deceit, shame, acceptance – phew! It’s the first book in some time that really tugged at my emotions, and despite being a YA book, I couldn’t get enough of it. I also loved the ongoing elements of loss and reunion, anger and forgiveness that weaved their way through before coming to the surprising conclusion.
Finally, the structure was excellent – set out in parts almost like an interview, it finished each chapter with a question which is a real hook and led me to a very late night when I thought “Just this one more chapter” then got to the question and pretty much had to carry on… sneaky!
My top tip for this book would be – don’t expect a light, fluffy read, and don’t start it when you’ve got a lot to do, or you’ll end up doing none of it! Pull up a comfy chair, grab a cuppa and join Ella for the ride – you won’t be disappointed.