Timely as well as constantly entertaining, here is another excellent novel from an author who never disappoints. It starts with thirteen-year-old Luke, living a quiet life in a village close to a proposed but disputed new runway for the local airfield. With few friends, his life changes when his older sister joins a group of committed protestors squatting in a row of abandoned houses. But she is not the only one of the family to take a new direction; the children’s previously unassuming Dad joins up as well, preferring playing bongo drums and taking part in demonstrations to his boring daily job. Unusually for a book aimed at younger readers, the story is a lot about him as well as his family, with his wife in particular considerably unpleased for most of the time.
Luke is then joined by Sky, a neglected twelve-year-old unenthusiastically home-schooled by a mother deeply into alternating parenting. Starting off socially unconfident, Sky gradually turns into a passionate and eloquent climate-protestor. She and Luke end up camping out at the top of an ancient tree scheduled to be felled while protestors and police grapple below. At this stage, Sutcliffe lets them have their head, answering back anyone who dares question their actions with blistering ripostes. Over and over again they insist that whatever they are doing at the moment with their protests it is far less dangerous than what might actually start happening to the planet in a couple of decades’ time.
This could well become one of those novels capable of changing numbers of readers’ attitudes too, so powerful are their arguments. Sutcliffe himself is firmly on their side, and the views his characters put forward are impossible to ignore. A little preachy towards the end, there is always enough wit to carry the main story through to a mixed type of happy ending, given that the problems this story highlights are still nowhere near anything like resolved. Sutcliffe’s previous Young Adult novel, Whatever Makes You Happy, has now been made into a Netflix Original film. This present title could well be the next.