I love it when I discover a writer whose books I like. I follow Gillian Philip on Twitter and she comes across as witty and friendly and has a cool avatar so when I saw one of her books in my local library I borrowed it.
Crossing the Line opens with a powerful statement from its central character, 16 year old Nick Geddes. ‘In this life you have to look after yourself. It’s not that your parents don’t want to take care of you. It’s not that they don’t have the best of intentions. It’s just that parents have other things on their minds.’
The ‘other things on their minds’ part is certainly true. Things such as Nick’s strange 14 year old sister, Allie, and her imaginary friend Aiden. Imaginary as in he was real enough once but now he’s dead, stabbed by Nick’s ‘best friend’ Kev.
Things such as Lola Nan, Nick and Allie’s granny who lives with them, and is slowly descending into dementia.
Things such as the Dad’s alcoholism.
So far so grim? For sure. We’re talking a Scottish comp as a backdrop where beatings are frequent, psychos abound and life is tough but Philip’s has a cracking writing style. Crossing the Line is pacy, zipping back and forth in time and place, weaving all the storylines and characters together with the skill of a lacemaker. I particularly liked the peripheral characters; McCluskey the dour deputy-head, hard as nails but deeply caring of his charges and Shuggie the outcast who has the habit of turning up at just the right time. My favourite character of all was Aiden. Kind, brave but dead Aiden.
The dialogue in Crossing the Line was spot-on, too. Many YA writers fail to convince – they either go overboard on the slang or make the voices too adult – but you can tell Philip’s has actually heard real teens talking.
I’m definitely going to seek out her other titles.
Crossing the Line:
Readership: Young Adult 12+ / would appeal to both boys and girls. Some swearing/sex (but nothing graphic)
Genre: real life/crime
Similar titles: When I was Joe by Keren David, The Knife that Killed Me by Anthony McGowan.