Thursday, 12 June 2014

Smart by Kim Slater (Children's, 11 years +, 10E/10E)

 5th June 2014, MacMillan Children's Books, 240 pages, Hardback, Review copy 

Themes: hostels, homeless, river, criminal activity, slim hope, illness, autism, having help at school, justice
Content: domestic violence, drug dealing, animal abuse, tissues needed

Summary from Pan Macmillan
'I found Jean's friend dead in the river. His name was Colin Kirk. He was a homeless man, but he still wanted to live.'

There's been a murder, but the police don't care. It was only a homeless old man after all.
Kieran cares. He's made a promise, and when you say something out loud, that means you're going to do it, for real. He's going to find out what really happened. To Colin. And to his grandma, who just stopped coming round one day. It's a good job Kieran's a master of observation, and knows all the detective tricks of the trade.

But being a detective is difficult when you're Kieran Woods. When you're amazing at drawing but terrible at fitting in. And when there are dangerous secrets everywhere, not just outside, but under your own roof.
Nayuleska's thoughts
I cried and felt all jumbled in my heart as I read Kieran's tale. Not only his mother is abused but he is too, which made it a really hard read domestic violence is awful. The way his autism makes him see the world actually provides him with coping mechanisms to deal with that, as well as the teasing Kieran has at school and a secret his mother is hiding. When it was revealed I was over the moon with what it potentially meant for Kieran and his mother who knows what's going on isn't right but is afraid to do anything. Seeing Kieran comfort her and be so mature in his logical thinking made me well up with pride at his courage and desire to make his mother's life nicer.

Once a notion gets in his head he doesn't rest under he has explored it from all angles-which included poking a dead body with a stick, and taking a racy massage business card from a phone box. When obstacles prevent him from seeing his grandmother Kieran persists until a way is found, including help from those who like Kieran. Despite being mostly sensible some immaturity of being young leads to reckless, dangerous choices which thankfully pan out okay in the end..

I liked how he knew the homeless needed friends, which proved invaluable to the murder investigation and his mother's secret. Most of all I adored Kieran's teaching assistant, Miss Crane. Every time I saw her name I pictured gorgeous red kimonos with cranes flying about or standing tall. She picks upon what Kieran doesn't tell her, and is a key player in helping to bring about revenge to Kieran's cruel stepfather and uncaring stepbrother. I liked when Kieran remembered some social lessons which he then used e.g. knowing how to introduce himself to someone. She is a reminder of how important assistants and carers are in the lives of anyone who needs a it of help getting through life. This is a book that will make you more aware of others' needs, and to pay attention to life because you never know when you'll have information or skills that can help someone else.

Find out more on Kim's website.

Suggested read
Another murder by a river this time with a young(ish) girl as the detective is Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri (Young Adult, 10E/10E)

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