Amelie is aged sixteen and a talented singer song-writer. Her father has found a new job in the south of England so Amelie is forced to leave her home in Sheffield, a move she finds distressing. To make matters worse Amelie has been forced to leave her boyfriend Alfie. She and Alfie have promised each other that they will wait two years: at the end of that separation they plan aged eighteen to be reunited at Manchester University.
Of course matters turn out to be more complicated. Down south Amelie meets the charming and charismatic Reese Davies. Initially Amelie is swept off her feet by Reese’s charm as well as his musical talent. He also knows how to flatter Amelie at a time when she lacks self-confidence. But as time goes by their relationship moves into something more dangerous and depressing. Bourne’s book traces the impact that change has on Reese, Amelie and the absent Alfie.
As a frontispiece to her novel Bourne has inserted a warning note. The book deals with controlling behaviour and sexual assault. This is appropriate, since these episodes could prove upsetting to young readers. That such oppressive behaviour does happen is incontestable. It is imperative that young people should be equipped to recognise such behaviour when confronted with it. For this reason Bourne’s endeavour deserves strong support.
This reviewer however has two minor criticisms. First, the emergence of the exploitative relationship needs to be gradual – and it is. It may be however that the development of this part of the narrative is actually too slow. In real life an outsider (a friend or a counsellor) may spot the development of an abusive relationship before the victim. Bourne casts the reader in the role of the knowledgeable outsider who spots what’s going on before Amelie. This tactic however runs a risk: it makes the reader both a witness to the process and an arms-length observer, an ambivalence which confuses the reader’s status. Second, in the light of Bourne’s warning, the reader is prepared for sexual assault to be quite explicitly described. Instead at the moment of truth the reader is left in some doubt whether an assault has actually taken place. It is implied rather than stated, though later made clear. Is this a failure of courage on the part of the author?