I would’ve still been oblivious to this book and this author if I had not attended YALC back in July. I was listening to an author panel and noticed that one of the authors, Matthew Crow, was from my hometown Whitley Bay, a seaside town in the North East of England. His book also sounded fantastic so win win!
The story is set in a town based on Whitley Bay (hence my interest) and follows 16 year old Claudette Flint after she comes out of hospital after suffering a bout of mania as she has Bipolar Disorder- a form of depression. I’ve suffered from bouts of poor mental health on and off for the past 10 years or so, so I found the main theme of this book really interesting and relatable.
Claudette becomes obsessed with trying to piece together the mystery of a friend who went missing over the Summer whilst trying to recover from a bad patch in her life. She was secretly friends with a girl named Sarah from her school after they bonded on one of Claudette’s midnight walks. They both had their own life struggles so shared something in common that they could both relate too.
This is a story of self discovery for Claudette as she tries to adapt to ordinary life again, although, her hometown is anything but ordinary with the disappearance of Sarah, so she struggles. Claudette has a true relationship with her close friend, Donna, who genuinely cares for Claudette but gets annoyed with her because she cares so much for her. Claudette also becomes good friends with a newcomer to the town, Jacob, who helps her with trying to solve the mystery of the missing girl. Jacob helps Claudette a great deal through her recovery. She also befriends an old neighbour , Mr Fitzpatrick, and they end up really close friends.
There are some brilliant and heart warming scenes with the two of them. The age difference also really puts how mental health is perceived into perspective and how there is still a massive stigma with different generations. Claudette and Mr Fitzpatrick end up helping each other come to terms with struggles in their lives without realising it.
The story and the setting was so real for me as I could really picture the scenes from living in Whitley Bay. The cafe where Jacob works reminded me a great deal of where I had my first Saturday job, The Rendezvous Cafe on the promenade (picture below).
I’m so pleased this book touches a great deal on mental health, especially for young adults. There isn’t a lot of books that writes about mental health as freely and as truthfully as this one and it’s like a breath of fresh air. Claudette isn’t a perfect teenager like in many YA books, she has real life struggles that a lot of young people will be able to relate too. I love how positively the book ends, not everything is perfect but she can see hope. I’m really sad to have finished this book as I fell in love with the story and the characters and could have carried on reading it forever.
However, I think my edition must be a really early one as there are some errors in it such as picking up tea one minute and putting coffee down the next!
I hope Matthew Crow writes more books like this in the future and I will now definitely be reading his first YA novel, In Bloom. Thank you for writing such a beautiful book.