Following the critically acclaimed Gloves Off which tackled bullying, boxing and body image in verse form, Louise Reid now writes in similar form about a car crash in which the other driver, mother and nurse Stephanie White, was killed outright. Joe and Imogen were in the other car, but which of them was driving?
Joe’s diary in verse form runs between the court case and the back story, explaining how Joe and Imogen got together and a lot about their relationship, including its impact on Joe’s life at school and at home. His love for Imogen, (or Immie), means that he as Captain lets his football team down when he doesn’t turn up for a big match, and his grades slip. Imogen is not an attractive character- she doesn’t see the point of school, is rude to teachers, and is a bad influence on Joe, but he cannot see that. His friends are concerned, but also have their own relationship issues. His Dad is dying of an unspecified illness, but both his parents have high hopes that Joe will go to college and have a good career. It looks as if that may not happen after all, as Joe seems to be heading for prison. The fact that he had been working in a garage after school to help make ends meet, but stole and crashed the car he was working on, does not endear him to the jury. The barrister is eloquent, the jury mostly bored, and this is all very well described. The tension mounts as the witnesses are not always helpful, Joe’s Dad dies, and he has to face up to the possible consequences of his actions.
Louisa Reid has written other books about people who are different in some way, and Gloves Off was her first in verse form. This one includes some examples of texting between Joe, Immie and their friends, which seems almost obligatory in YA books. This, her second in verse is indeed excellent writing, but perhaps too long – your reviewer confesses skipping to the end, and a teen reader may also lose patience.