23 September 2018

Review: ODD CHILD OUT, Gilly Macmillan

  • this edition published by littlebrown.co.uk 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-349-41294-8
  • 382 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Two best friends. One terrible event.

Abdi Mahal and Noah Sadler have been inseparable since they met. They've stuck together, even when their peers have excluded them. But when a horrifying incident leaves Noah in a coma and fighting for his life, Abdi is too traumatised to say anything about what happened.

DI Jim Clemo, freshly returned to work after an enforced leave of absence, is tasked to investigate. And against a backdrop of a city where racial tensions are running high, he must determine what really happened to drive two teenage boys into a situation so desperate.

Everything rests on one of the boys talking.

But one can't talk.

And one won't.

My take

This is the second novel featuring DI Jim Clemo but the first I've read.

It is set in the author's home city of Bristol.

The action of the novel takes place over the period of a week and the story is told from several points of view with often only the content or tone to indicate who the narrator is.

Abdi and Noah are 15 year olds who have been inseparable since they began secondary school. Noah has health issues and has spent a lot of time in hospital. His father is a photographer who spends a lot of time away. Abdi is Somali, his father is a taxi driver, his mother does not speak English, and his sister is at tertiary college. Noah's mother is not convinced his friendship with Abdi is the best he can do, but Noah is very dependent on him.

On the night when the story starts Noah's father has a photographic exhibition which both boys attend. Some of the photographs are of Somalian refugee camps and Abdi finds them upsetting.  After they get back to Noah's place the boys go out, at Noah's instigation, unknown to his parents, and this sets off a train of events with dreadful consequences.

This novel has a number of thought provoking themes: relationships in the work place, journalists who use events to enhance their own careers, the effects of ill health on families and those who are afflicted, the search by teenagers for identity and rites of passage.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Gilly Macmillan grew up in Wiltshire, and was pleasantly surprised when her family moved to California when she was a teenager. She studied History of Art at Bristol University before doing an MA in Modern British Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art.  Her career path has included working at the Burlington Magazine, the Hayward Gallery and teaching photography at a sixth-form college in Swindon. Her favourite job was working in a cafĂ© opposite Keplers bookshop in Menlo Park, CA. She currently lives in Bristol with her husband Julian and their three children.

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