Thursday 23 November 2023

21 Miles by Nicola Garrard BLOG TOUR #21Miles @nmgarrard @hoperoadpublish @RandomTTours #BookExtract


21 MILES revisits the much-loved protagonist of 29 LOCKS two years after his canal boat adventure as a fifteen-year-old. 

Older, wiser and more confident, life is going well for the former gang member who’d escaped a brutal life of criminal exploitation. 

But when Donny and his best friend Zoe plan a day trip to France ahead of their sixth form exams, Donny loses his passport and is arrested as an ‘illegal’ migrant. 

To survive, he must rely on the help of unaccompanied teenage refugees, living rough in the dunes east of Calais. 

Can Donny use his boat skills to cross the busiest shipping channel in the world and make it home? 

A fast-paced, tender and unflinching depiction of teenage friendship and resilience against the odds.

21 Miles by Nicola Garrard was published on 28 September 2023 by HopeRoad Publishing. As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from 21 Miles by Nicola Garrard

Hertfordshire, June 2022

I’m a boat boy. I can navigate the canals, fix a hull, strip an engine and handle any lock gate – all that with my eyes shut.

My best friend Zoe, on the other hand, is a motor girl. When she turned seventeen, she got a brand-new soft-top electric Mini for her birthday, with Union Jack trim and all the safety features, like twin airbags and a roll bar. It’s even got pollen filters in the air conditioning in case she gets hay fever. Her dad is taking no chances with his little girl. And neither would I. If I ever become a parent, I’ll be the kind that makes sure his kid gets her ten-a- day fruit and veg.

But I definitely wouldn’t let her drive to France on a day trip just two weeks after she passed her driving test. Even with me in the passenger seat.

So it’s on account of her nice new car that Zoe comes round for me at six in the morning. It’s a Saturday but no chance of a lie-in. I’m already awake because the birds have been singing since five. The garden is noisy like that, this time of year – exam time, just when I need the extra sleep. Laura, my foster carer, is already up. I hear her moving around in the kitchen. Normally, she’s up early doing her yoga but today, I can smell baking. That’s not as good as it sounds; most things she bakes are brown and healthy.

Zoe never rings the bell and Laura never locks the doors during the day so Zoe lets herself in. Even upstairs in bed and with the duvet pulled over my head I hear her say, ‘Morning, Laura.’

‘Oh hi, Zoe. Did you manage to get your euros sorted? Look, I’m afraid

Donny’s not quite up ... I thought you weren’t coming till seven?’

I put the pillow over my head and curl in a ball, but six foot two is too high to hide. And I know what’s coming next: feet on the stairs, no knock, my bedroom door bangs open and, ‘Oh my God, Donny,’ Zoe says in her posh accent. ‘You’re still in bed! Laura was supposed to get you up. What the actual ...?’

I peek out and say grumpily, ‘Allow it, Zo.’

She turns on my light, then orders: ‘Get up, sleepyhead. Time to go, mon cher.’

‘Go where?’ I mumble. ‘What’s going on?’

‘La France, dumbo!’

She opens my curtains. The light stings my eyes so I duck under again.

Then she lands on the end of my bed, right on top of my feet, and bounces till I can’t take it any longer and sit up, my feet out of her range.

‘What are you talking about? I’m staying in my room all day,’ I tell her. ‘End of. I don’t have a French exam like you, but I’ve got other exams, you know.’

I see that she’s scrolling down her phone calendar. ‘Let me see – you have History on Monday morning, including the Siege of Calais, 1558. Calais, right? Wednesday, I sit French after lunch. So ...’ Her eyes light up, a big smile on her face. She looks so happy. ‘We’re going to revise – in Calais!’

‘We? Wait, small problem, Zo,’ I say.

‘Don’t worry. Granny’s paying.’

‘Yeah, but what about the Arsenal match later? We’re playing Chelsea.

London grudge match, innit.’

Nicola Garrard has taught English in secondary schools for twenty-three years, including fifteen years at an Islington comprehensive. 
Her first novel, 29 LOCKS, was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and the Mslexia Children’s Novel competition, and longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2022 and the Berkshire Book Award. 
It was picked by Suzi Feay in the Financial Times as one of their ‘Best Books of 2021’. This is her second book.

Nicola Garrard has appeared at the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, Chichester Festival and Petworth Festival Literary Week and on BBC Radio London. 
She gives regular talks for schools, libraries and colleges (including for World Book Day), as well as prisons. 
Her words and poetry have been published in The Frogmore Papers magazine, IRON Press Publishing, Mslexia magazine, The Guardian and the Writers & Artists Yearbook Guide to Getting Published, and by the Poetry Book Society. 

Nicola lives in West Sussex with her wife, three children and a Jack Russell terrier called Little Bear. Her family is typical of modern Britain, with roots in England, Scotland, Hungary and Trinidad.

She currently works at Minority Matters, a charity which aims to empower young people from isolated communities through engagement projects, and is also an active supporter of the Trussell Trust.

For more information see or follow @nmgarrard on X, formerly twitter

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