Patrice Lawrence has been extraordinarily busy over this last year, creating a shelf of genre-crossing books…but I have to admit that this was the one I was most impatient for. From Orangeboy (2016) to Indigo Donut (2017) to Rose, Interrupted (2019), it is Lawrence’s YA canon which I keep an especially keen eye on. With each new title, the plots are ever more cartographic in their detail and in the overlaying of narratives. Meantime, the key characters’ inner lives tread ever closer to the reader, slowly cutting through and away to the core. It is very hard to shake off these wonderfully drawn, pulsing characters once the last page has been turned.
Eight Pieces of Silva keeps Lawrence at the top of her game. It is first and foremost an expertly crafted mystery at the centre of which is the disappearance of Becks’ older sister, Silva. The plot rumbles and churns and then, in true Lawrence style, picks up a perfectly exhausting pace which makes you long for a resolution- and, finally, a good night’s sleep. Like all good mysteries, there are: clues along the way (eight, to be precise)- including an Okoye cosplay wig…; a somewhat reluctant, flawed and hugely endearing ‘detective’ – 16 year-old Becks; unreliable and equivocating characters; an urban landscape of shifting moods (Lawrence’s London always feels like family to me); there is even, I would argue, a flipped, noir-esque, femme fatale in Logan the Legend… And all of this is shot through with perhaps my favourite Lawrence signature – a weave of popular cultural references with a special bias here for Tolkien, Black Panther, K-pop and Janelle Monáe. A compelling, moreish thriller- (and if you know a better-drawn queer black girl protagonist in UK YA, send her my way).