Reviewing this top-notch read has been a long time coming. And when I say long, I mean years.
I first heard about ‘Risk’ by Fleur Ferris before it was published. Here in West Oz, SCBWI have an annual event where we basically invite a few publishers over and then maroon them on a small island with us for several days.
Back in 2015 the publisher was from Random House. And she was talking up this book. If we wanted our YA to be published, she told us, this book was our benchmark.
The tantalising first chapter on the web hauled me in, but the book wasn’t out at the time. And somehow it just stayed on my TBR…
My library recently bought a brand-spanking shiny new copy that jumped out and grabbed me as I wandered past the shelf. And approximately seven hours after checking it out, I was reviewing it.
Because this brilliant book dragged me in and held me.
It frightened me.
It made me cry.
And it made me consider internet restrictions for the teenager my daughter will become in less than a decade. May it be a very long eight years.
So, what was so great about it?
- The balance between fear and reaction
- The background knowledge of the author
- The characters
The balance = book setup
The first 25% of the book is the “before”. As in, before Taylor and her friends admit something has gone terribly wrong with Sienna’s date with the “boy” she met online.
That leaves the rest of the book to deal with reactions, investigations and emotions. And allows it to educate as it entertains.
I feel the colour drain from my face. I realise that, until this moment, I still believed Jacob Jones was really Jacob Jones. Nausea comes in waves. (p 109)
The knowledge = realistic ++
This book feels real. The knowledge Ferris holds is clear in every page. You can tell she knows what she’s writing about in depth, and as a reader you feel safe in her hands (well, as safe as you can with a book involving online predators).
That’s a fine thing in story-telling.
It’s a great reminder about how important research is. How vital it is for a writer to have a solid connection with the subject they’re writing about.
The characters = heart
There is a clever balance of characters in this book. Friends, parents, teachers, police. They are all well-executed. None are simply bad, even the guy online is shown to have a better side he displays to the world. None are simply good either.
I like the use of Callum as the voice of reason. That’s how I read him anyway. He wasn’t preachy, but he provided me with the better path to choose and between him and the police I got a gentle introduction into cyber safety without feeling like I was.
And give it to every teenager you know, because the more kids recognise the dangers out there, the safer they can make themselves.
It’s YA. The protagonists are 15, so the readership is probably 13+, but be aware not everyone comes out the other end in one piece. It also talks (once) about kids having sex in Year 7. So, if you’re not keen on normalising that for your impressionable 13-year-old, wait a bit.
It’s a powerful book with an important message. It’s brilliantly written, and I totally understand why that publisher was so passionate about it back in 2015.
Now… I’m just impatiently waiting for ‘Wreck’! Bring it on!