In Brief: Contrast between semi-rural quiet family life and an embittered city teenager, who dresses and acts slightly outrageously. Positive attitude towards an autistic teenager.
Published in: 1999
Age Range: Pre Teens
Setting: A Scottish island
- Fran is a quiet twelve-year-old who has to cope with the streetwise Del coming for the summer
- Del is a Glaswegian girl from a family with problems who comes to stay with Fran's family for the summer. She is used to scrawling graffiti and taking things without paying.
- Barney is Fran's older brother, autistic, who strikes up a friendship with Del, each in their own way.
Fran is looking forward to a girl of her own age coming to stay, until Del arrives and turns out to be a citywise girl of mildly outrageous appearance who's not averse to scrawling graffiti and to taking things she wants without paying for them. Fran's brother, Barney, takes to Del unexpectedly, but the rest of the family has a hard time at first until Del thaws out a bit and Fran finds it in her to tackle Del about the things she's done.
Literary Quality: A small story with just the right amount of interest packed into the main characters: Fran & her family and Del. The outlines of the supporting characters — Fran's friends and the other islanders — are clear enough for them to play their roles without intruding. It's easy to understand the different characters of Del & Fran and how your perception of them changes slightly and gradually over the course of the book.
Family: Fran's family's come to the island from London to make a new start as general storeholders while Del's mother has died and her father's an unemployed alcoholic, unable to look after Del or her 6-year-old sister properly. Del's situation opens Fran's eyes to how lucky she is, even with the difficulties Barney presents and the occasional family squabble; Fran's and her parents and brother give Del enough of a taste of family life for her to soften up and to want to come back.
Modesty & Decency: Del wears skimpy skirts and tops (and dyes and spikes her hair) in the way of a young city teenager.
The rain grew heavier as I stood out there, and my thoughts grew more morbid. Ross wouldn't care about old-fashioned things like friends and rainbows. Maybe his was the world we'd all live in one of these days, and people wouldn't need to meet each other any more. There would be cyber-marriages where the husband and wife knew each other only through the Internet, endlessly exchanging love-messages. They could see each other on the screen, admire each other's looks and cleverness, never quarrel about what colour to paint the kitchen or how to bring up the children because they'd be cyber- children, wouldn't they? Virtual babies, the perfect little boys and girls of your wishing. No rudeness, no wet beds, nothing unplanned, nothing worrying. No Barneys. Such a perfect world.
The tears that had threatened suddenly overwhelmed me. My fists were clenched in my pockets, and rain mingled with the tears that were pouring down my face. Everything seemed filled with sadness, even the small purple flowers of the thrift that grew in clefts between the rocks, even the gull that stood a little way off, shuffling its folded wings into neatness and watching me with a round, yellow eye
Monday 18th August 2003