Friday, 15 April 2011

Review of The Radleys by Matt Haig

Just read this and wanted to get a review up ASAP rather than waiting for Monday Musings. This will inevitably mean I don't have one for Monday, but...

Rowan Radley is a freak who has to wear factor 60 sunblock. Clara is wasting away as she tries to turn vegan. Their parents are a normal suburban couple – aren’t they? When a bully tries to take advantage of Clara in a secluded field, he finds he’s bitten off rather more than he can chew – and she’s bitten off rather more than he can survive without. Who do you call when you need a body to be buried? Abstainers Peter and Helen haven’t had to deal with this sort of thing since they gave up drinking human blood – so in a moment of desperation they turn to Will, Peter’s brother, who’s rather more of a traditional vampire. Things are about to get messy…

Matt Haig’s central concept for this novel – being marketed as a ‘crossover’ to appeal to older teens and adults – is rather fantastic. The humour of the first few chapters as the reader quickly works out what the family are a long time before Haig’s two teenage characters are told is terrific and Will makes a splendidly monstrous vampire in comparison to the more civilised Peter and Helen. There’s also a pair of great coming of age stories here as Clara and Rowan develop once they realise their true nature and the scenes with one or both of the youngsters in are by far the strongest. A memorable bunch of supporting characters including the head of the police force in charge of tracking down vampires and a grieving father round this one out nicely. Oh, and the quotes from the ‘’Abstainer’s Handbook’’ are superb!

That said, I have to just about hold back from giving it the full 5 star recommendation – the ending seemed oddly anticlimactic to me, which soured me a little on the novel. Regardless, for most of its length this is a thrilling ride with some memorable characters and one that I’d be happy to pick up again and reread in the future. Big thumbs up to the pacing, by the way, with short, sharp and punchy chapters right the way through.

I believe Alfonso Cuaron has the rights to the book and is looking at a big-screen adaptation – huge potential on that side as this could really appeal to vampire fans who are fed up of Twilight, with Will really making a stand for more macho blood drinkers everywhere!

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