Allen and Unwin – Corvus,
Reviewer: Lesley Vick
Laura loves her daughter more than anything in the world. But nine-year-old Autumn is being bullied. Laura feels helpless. When Autumn fails to return home from school one day, Laura goes looking for her. She finds a crowd of older children taunting her little girl. In the heat of the moment, Laura makes a terrible choice. A choice that will have devastating consequences for her and her daughter.
Review – Lesley Vick
Recently divorced and financially strapped, Laura has moved to Bristol to start a new life with her daughter. When she discovers that some older boys at her daughter’s new school are bullying the girl Laura reports this to the class teacher. Unfortunately the teacher appears to ignore the complaint and when Laura finds the boys taunting Autumn she over-reacts – perhaps understandably but this sets in train an escalating series of destructive events.
The author maintains a convincing level of suspense as the story unfolds and the portrayal of bullying and its consequences is realistic and horrifying. Hearing the developments from the alternating perspectives of both the mother and the daughter enhances the tension. Laura is a loving but flawed mother and the impact of the whole situation on Autumn is heartbreaking. Autumn is already traumatised by the bullying but she feels her mother’s actions are making the situation worse. The behaviour of the school authorities, the bully and his father is utterly believable, as is the herd mentality of other gossiping parents at the school. Every step of the way the reader is filled with apprehension about more bad things to come. A seemingly sympathetic and popular IT expert helps to fix Laura’s computer but then bullying via cyber space makes Laura’s already vulnerable situation even worse. This man then turns out to be the father of the bully and it is not clear which of them is behind the cyber bullying. By this stage, Laura seems quite paranoid and she has no friends or supporters at the school. Only the man who teaches her self-defence seems to be on her side.
The damage caused by bullying is skilfully examined in this book and its capacity to make the victims feels defenceless is very disturbing. The resolution of the story is both shocking and revealing as we learn that things are not quite as they seemed. This is the author’s first psychological thriller and she is a very accomplished writer. The compelling story is not just a page turner but Sanjida Kay makes you really wonder what you would do in the same circumstances. There is no doubt that readers will look forward to her next book with great anticipation.