Wednesday 9 August 2017

Another Place by Matthew Crow @mizzlecrizzle @AtomBooks @BrooDoherty

A small town. A missing schoolgirl. A terrible secret. And one girl's fight to survive.
Sixteen-year-old Claudette Flint is coming home from hospital after an escalating depression left her unable to cope. She may seem unchanged on the outside; but everything's different. The same could be said about her seaside hometown.
A local teenager, Sarah, has disappeared. Sarah had a bad reputation round town; but now she's vanished the close-knit community seems to be unspooling.
As the police investigate and the press digs around for dirt, small town scandals start to surface. What nobody knows yet is that Claudette and Sarah had a secret friendship. And that the last secret Sarah shared may be the key to the truth.
After weeks of focusing solely on herself, Claudette realizes she is not the only part of the world that needs fixing - and that if she can piece together the fragments of Sarah's story, then maybe she can piece herself back together too.
Another Place is a novel about lost girls, recovered life - and the meaning of home.

Another Place by Matthew Crow was published in paperback on 3 August 2017 by Atom.

Another Place is a book targeted at a Young Adult market. I am not a Young Adult. I haven't been a Young Adult for many many years. However, I am a huge fan of Matthew Crow. His last YA book, In Bloom remains one of my all time favourite books, I read and reviewed it here on Random Things back in 2013

The sign, for me, of a great book, one that I have loved and enjoyed, is the number of folded back page corners in my copy. I fold back pages that contain beautiful phrases, wonderful description and writing that makes my heart sing. My copy of Another Place has lots of folded corners. There are too many marked parts to put into this review, if I included them all, you wouldn't really need to buy the book!

Another Place is Claudette's story. She's seventeen and lives in the North East of England, in a town that was once thriving, but is now dark and grey, with closed down shop fronts and an undercurrent of drug culture, and the violence and menace that goes with it. Claudette begins her story as she leaves hospital. She was there because she had a breakdown that involved broken glass and injured teachers. Claudette and her father live alone, her mother left years ago. She and her Dad have a fabulous relationship, he loves her and supports her. He is her tiger when she needs one. He also struggles to understand the scars on her arms and the moods.

Claudette is a strong and streetwise seventeen year old. No stranger to drink, or sex and not shy to confront anyone. It is the inner demons that she finds the hardest to confront, and the author's description of how she deals with the regular panic attacks is wonderfully blunt:

"It's fine, I have asthma, I said quickly, rather than the truth. ........... Asthma was a safer bet. Nobody ever wanted to talk about asthma. It was like saying you had stew for dinner. People accepted it and moved on."

Claudette is astute, and kind and determined. The town is buzzing because a young girl, Sarah, has disappeared. Claudette and Sarah had a strange relationship; a friendship that only they knew about. They confided in each other, they told the truth that was hidden from others, and Claudette is determined to find out just what has happened to Sarah.

Whilst the mystery of Sarah's disappearance is the centre of the story, the real detail is in the characters and the relationships between them. Matthew Crow has a magic touch when creating these. The blossoming friendship between Sarah and the elderly Mr Fitzpatrick is beautifully imagined, growing gently and exposing more truths that painfully bind them together.

The characters in Another Place are lively and so well rounded. Claudette's friend Donna is an absolute joy, her brother Adam is quieter but no less well defined, and then there is Paula. Paula is Claudette's Dad's partner and is probably my favourite of them all. So exquisitely detailed, I read this and I saw her:

"Paula was low-hanging fruit. She wore fleeces with Alsatians on them that she bought at the indoor market. She hand-made most of the presents she gave. She clipped a pedometer to the elastic of her jogging bottoms every morning without fail. She walked ten thousand steps a day and still ended up back in the same place she started." 

Another Place is a wonderful book. It is heartwarming, yet gritty and down to earth. It is full of humour and sometimes is overwhelming in its sadness. It is an insightful and clever observation of the world of teenage mental health, grimy towns and people who will hurt others to protect themselves.

A truly beautiful story. Poignant, gripping and witty and deserves to become a classic.

Matthew Crow was born in 1987 and raised in Newcastle.  Having worked as a freelance journalist since his teens he has contributed to a number of publications including the Independent on Sunday and the Observer.  

He has written two novels for adults. The second, My Dearest Jonah, was nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize.  

Follow Matthew on Twitter @mizzlecrizzle

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