What if an alien race wanted to discover what it was that made human beings so unique? What is that special element? This is the idea at the centre of Sally Gardner’s latest novel; a complex, intriguing work that demands a lot from the reader. At the same time it is an exciting, crafted mystery that draws one in.
Jazmin is devastated. Her best friend Becky has stepped off the parapet of St Paul’s and….but there is no body? Jazmin knows what has happened but no one believes her. Now it is time to tell her story; a story that asks ‘what if’. But that is the question that Mary Shelley asked when she wrote Frankenstein.
Science fiction is a difficult genre. Yet television programmes and film constantly use it –to great acclaim. So why should there in any problem when it appears as a teen novel? Sally Gardner takes the framework to explore what we call love – an emotion apparently so simple, but on examination so many facetted, powerful, life-enhancing, destructive. The writing is direct and immediate; the device of the interview particularly effective allowing different voices to speak. The names of her characters are allusive making demands on the reader’s intelligence. At the heart is the relationship between Jazmin and Becky, very different characters but very real. The sense of the extraordinary is heightened and enhanced by the atmospheric illustrations from Nat Barlex. As one might expect from this author, this is a rich imaginative narrative that may not appeal to all, but is certainly worth reading, and recommending.