This charming, fast-paced novel deals with the delicate topic of homelessness in a considerate and realistic way. As with his highly acclaimed debut novel, Malcolm Duffy manages to sensitively pepper comedy throughout the text, even when writing about characters who find themselves in harrowing situations. This unique style of writing makes for a book that is both educational and an immensely entertaining read.
Fifteen-year-old Tyler is devastated when his parents announce that their family is moving away; what could be worse for a teenager than being forced to up and leave his home, school, and mates? He’s bored and completely friendless in his new town, until he happens to meet Spider, a local homeless girl who wants him to teach her how to swim. He eventually agrees and seems happy to have a companion; though his parents are less than thrilled with his choice of associate.
Duffy cleverly uses the parents’ voices and their wrongful criticism of Spider to challenge the stigmatisation of homelessness in our society. The juxtaposition between Tyler’s understanding and empathetic attitude towards his friend, and his parents’ unfair judgmental reactions, persuades the reader to align themselves with the protagonist, therefore educating them on the morally correct way to treat people who do not have the same privileges as themselves.
This is a near-perfect novel, within which there are lessons that can be learned by all readers, young and old alike.