Being Billy

This review is an extract from Inis 35. To read the full extended review pick up a copy of Inis 35.

Billy Finn is angry. Abandoned by his alcoholic mother, beaten by his stepfather, rejected by his adoptive parents, and restrained by his carers, his life is far from a barrel of laughs. His strong relationship with his younger brother and sister is his only joy. Lizzie and Louie, the lively 9-year-old twins, adore him. Billy has been the one constant in the young pair’s life. But how will Billy cope when he discovers that his social workers plan to change all that?

Billy’s anger is palpable throughout the story. Phil Earle has created an intense antihero; a prickly yet vulnerable protagonist whose temper and violent outbursts exacerbate his disastrous situation. With strong dialogue, descriptive settings, well-developed characters and a good pace, the story is sharp and gritty, but written with a surprising sensitivity.

Though Being Billy has a lot of strong points, the book is so focused on Billy’s anger and quest for revenge that at times it is exhausting. His relationship with his care worker, Ronnie, is very realistic – it is not surprising that Earle used to work as a care worker. Another point of view or more reflections back to his past or a stronger input from Daisy could have offered another element to the book, which would have taken the heat off Billy’s intensity. Billy is such a powerful character that one book does not seem enough to contain him. Watch this space for a sequel!