Young Nicky’s life has been tough. His Mum’s left home, his Dad’s been in trouble with the law, his older brother Kenny has special needs and Nicky is his main emotional support. As Rook opens, the brothers are in a much better place. They like Dad’s new girlfriend Jenny, who has helped a lot to sort their family out. Dad is his old caring self. Nicky’s doing fine. He’s still very close to Kenny – both of them love wild creatures and the novel begins with them finding a young rook near to death after a sparrow-hawk attack. They take ‘Rooky’ home to recover. Nicky’s in Year 9 now, coping well with daily life at school, despite some malicious bullying from three kids in Year 10. Trouble is, ‘Stanno’, the ringleader, is the brother of Sarah Stanhope in Nicky’s year, and Sarah is the big secret in Nicky’s life. He really fancies her – so much so he can’t find a word to say to her. He’s desperate to impress, even ask her out. He’s got to do something, and soon, since his ‘insides were boiling over, like when you leave a milk pan on the heat.’
That kind of everyday image is typical of the writing. There’s also a kind of self-mockery; when he can stand back and look at himself, Nicky knows his adolescent angst is somewhat comic. Nicky’s story works out just fine: vulnerability and need turn out to lie beneath the bully’s bravado; Sarah is far from unattainable and she’s a great listener (Nicky’s needed that); and Kenny’s becoming less dependent on Nicky, making new friends of his own.
Rook is an entertaining read and will be widely enjoyed; it’s certainly accessible to those getting used to reading whole books for themselves.