Thank you to NetGalley and C J Skuse for my advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I was not expecting this book to be as good as it was. I started it reading it and I thought; this is going to be quite an immature read about some kids getting revenge on bullies. I couldn't have anticipated the depth and imagination that this author would bring to this book. This was a brilliant book full of realism and vivid characters. It tackles a lot of issues without ostracising the audience, no matter their age.
This book is told from the perspective of Ella. She is a complex character, and we know right from the start that she is keeping something from everyone. Through Ella, we discover that she used to hang around with a group of friends until her boyfriend Max's sister Jessica dies. The group disbands, and it is only when Ella and Max discover that Corey is being bullied by their old friend Zane that they reconnect. This part of the book is full of recollections on what life used to be like and I enjoyed the reminiscent tone and the innocence of playing outside and the adventures that brought.
In this book, the idea of revenge and dealing with anger, especially in adolescents is explored. It shows the danger of trying to hide from your problems. I also think, for me, it comments on the pressure and difficulties that teenagers have to deal with. Coming of age can be a stressful time even when you don't have the secrets and pressures that Ella has. Each of the friends in the group is like a case study of different problems, teenage pregnancy, abuse, parental pressures, parental illnesses, sexuality and much more. Each of the characters in this book is at that stage where they still feel like a child, but then they feel like they should be thinking like adults. So many issues are touched upon and explored in this book, and it makes it fascinating. I was gripped from the beginning. I can't give the ending or anything more away, but I must say the end of this book is dramatic and unbelievably clever. I couldn't have predicted the final scenes in this book the writing was very smart. I really can't wait to read more from CJ Skuse.
Special Feature from CJ Skuse.
We all love to know the processes that author's go through to create the wonderful characters and worlds they inhabit. It is my pleasure to have some exclusive pictures and thoughts from this author to celebrate her book release.
My YA novel The Deviants was a really long time in the making – I have notebooks dating back to 2001 with notes for the story in them – but I never realised until last year what the story truly was about. Below are some journal entries taken from my original notebooks, back in the days when I used to plan my books my books in great details. Some of this original detail features in the new novel, some has fallen by the wayside within the several drafts that have gone before it. Enjoy!
- My first attempt at cover art, back when the story was called Whipped. The book was named for the ice cream parlour on the seafront, from which Ella sees the body on the beach in the prologue. That scene has been constant throughout all the drafts – though the identity of the body has changed in each one. Max originally hated Corey, which is why he is refusing to hold his hand in the picture. Also, the cat here is black and was originally called Lugosi – he finished up as Voldemort. The black spidery thing they’re looking at is an old shipwreck sticking out of the mud where the dead body washes up, but this was removed in later drafts.
- My second cover art attempt, when the story’s title had changed to Volcano Girl. By this point it had taken on an edgier, darker tone and the girl in the tunnel represented Jessica, Max’s sister, who had been banished to a remote mental asylum which the Fearless Five stumbled upon during one of their rural adventures. It transpired that Jessica had died after setting herself on fire – she was the original Volcano Girl of the story.
- This image was the very first picture I saw for the group of teenagers who would later become my Fearless Five. I was on my lunchbreak at work and I found it in a very old Heat magazine in an article about teenage violence. It struck me that the kids were all looking down upon something and I figured it was either a person they were keeping hostage or a dead body. Thoughts began to accumulate from there.
- This is an image from an old birthday card which instantly reminded me of Max and Ella as children. I absolutely love it and it hung above my desk for many years. I used it as the basis for their relationship – the childhood friends they were. For me it acts as a said reference point – everything started to happen after this photo was taken.
- These five images are real life photographs taken at five locations which appear in the story. Top left: The café on the seafront, from which Ella sees the jogger running up the beach, screaming that he has found a body. Top right: The Wallflower pub, from which Neil emerges on the fateful night (Fun Fact: the pub is named in honour of my favourite book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.) Bottom left: The jetty on the beach in the climactic scene. Bottom right: The shipwreck on the beach, which featured heavily in early drafts as the dead body’s final resting place; Middle: The old railway tunnel at Cloud, near where Fallon lives. Originally they were going to go.
- Corey’s drawing of Ella. In previous drafts. Corey (or Mikey as he was previously known) was obsessed with Ella having watched her tear up the competition during a Sports Day sprint. Coupled with his love of comics, he gave her the superhero-esque nickname Volcano Girl and stalked her harmlessly yet constantly from that point on.
- These four drawings, which might looks as though they were done by an 8 year old child were actually done by myself during the early stages of writing The Deviants (circa 2003/04). These pictures feature Ella (or Lynx as she was previously known), Max (formerly known as Shane), Corey (previously Mikey) and Roadkill Rosie. Looks-wise, none of them have altered that dramatically.
What a fascinating look into the mind of this fantastic writer. Thank you so much for sharing this.