Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Review: Ostrich Boys - Keith Gray

Kenny, Sim, Blake and Ross have always been a foursome. Inseperable, they've taken on bullies, teachers, and even their families, standing up for each other. But now Ross is dead, and they'll never be a quartet again. Except for this one last trip... because his remaining friends have got his ashes, and are taking him to Ross in Scotland, a place he always wanted to visit. The group set out to travel 261 miles from Cleethorpes to Ross without anyone realising what they're doing, but the journey throws up some questions about just how strong their friendship really is.

This is, as you'd expect from the summary, a sweet and touching book, but it's also surprisingly funny given the content. Keith Gray's brisk descriptive style hides some rather deeper dialogue as the boys end up considering the true meaning of friendship and just why they're doing this, in between some hilarious moments while they try to cope with lost train tickets, cashflow problems, and three Scottish girls who may distract them from their actual aim. And then things take a darker turn, as they have to deal with the suggestion that maybe the accident in which Ross lost his life wasn't such an accident after all. Could their best friend really have done the unthinkable and killed himself?

The book states on the back cover 'Not suitable for younger readers' and in many ways the warning is a real shame. Yes, it's a difficult topic, and perhaps not something you'd want pre-teens picking up without a thought as to whether they were mature enough to handle it. But the blanket 'not suitable' isn't giving much credit to anyone as there's plenty of 11 and 12 year olds who I think would find this both enjoyable and thought-provoking, and perhaps a subject like this isn't one that should be completely avoided. I would have no hesitation in recommending it to a 10 - 13 year old if I felt they had an appropriate adult to turn to if they needed to ask questions about it.

Strong recommendation, particularly to fans of Jenny Valentine and Kevin Brooks.

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