5 October 2012

Book Review: Lifesaving for Beginners by Ciara Geraghty

"Kat Kavanagh is not in love. She has lots of friends, an ordinary job, and she never ever thinks about her past.

This is Kat's story. None of it is true.

Milo McIntyre loves his mam, the peanut-butter-and-banana muffins at the Funky Banana café, and the lifesaving class he does after school. He never thinks about his future, until the day it changes forever.

This is Milo's story. All of it is true.

And then there is the other story. The one with a twist of fate which somehow brings together a boy from Brighton and a woman in Dublin, and uncovers the truth once and for all. 

This is the story that's just about to begin . . ."

Rating: 4/5

I really did enjoy this book, and more than I expected to. I found Ciara's last book, Finding Mr Flood to be a little hard-going at times and felt, to me anyway, a bit too long but I really wanted to give it a go, especially after I had read some early reviews online saying it was fantastic. I thought the cover was really unusual too, the burst of colour really cheering up an otherwise quite bland picture. Luckily, the book ended up being much more my cup of tea, and I really enjoyed the double narrator which I had slight reservations about, but in the end, it seemed to work perfectly for this book, and I was speeding my way through the pages, desperate to find out what was going to happen.

It's a very emotional and feeling-driven book, and this is where the narrator use comes in well. Milo, the young boy who narrates half of the book, is very honest and true in everything that he says, as most children are, and does not hold back on his emotions, his feelings and how situations make him feel. This makes it easy for an adult reader to understand him, but it is, as I say, very emotional especially when he's discussing his mother. Geraghty has tapped perfectly into the mind of this young boy, and it contrasts so well with the older, more mature narrator of Kat, who is suffering her own problems at this time. I did find that Milo made me less sympathetic to Kat, that he was going through more than her and she seemed selfish in comparison to me, but that is the clever thing with these narrators, they bounce off each other and evoke real feeling in the reader. Faith was another of my favourite characters, and I couldn't help but feel desperately sorry for this lost and bereft teenage girl who has been forced to grow up very quickly.

Geraghty's narrative descriptions for both characters are so incredibly vivid. From the café where Milo's mum worked, to the Irish landscape he and sister Faith see, even to his best friend Damo from school who we barely meet ourselves in the book - each of these are easy to imagine so clearly in your mind because Geraghty pays such attention to detail they almost jump out at you from the page. It is the same for the characters. Due to the fact you are in their heads for the duration of the book, you imagine them so clearly and almost experience things with them, from the good to the bad, and this adds to the emotion of the read. I also enjoyed how Geraghty slowly unwound the story as the book progressed, things become clearer as you progress and I found how she drew the threads of the separate stories very clever and I hadn't guessed the developments at all.

Lifesaving for Beginners is a very unusual read. It isn't often we find a child narrator in women's fiction, but it works so well in this book, simply due to the fact Geraghty writes Milo so beautifully. Everything comes together to become a very emotive story, and covers some tough topics - death, depression, adoption amongst others. In fact, one of my favourite parts of the book was involving Kat and her brother - it was fantastically written and you can feel Kat's frustration at people's reaction to her beloved brother come through so clearly. It isn't all sadness and tears though, there are parts that will have you smiling and laughing, and it's this that keeps you reading and keeps you hooked - you don't know where it's going to go next. Kat and Milo couldn't be more different, but the way they are drawn together is both shocking and suprising - you have to read this book to find out more about them, and why both characters had me enthralled. A really deep and emotional read, this one won't disappoint.

You can buy Lifesaving for Beginners as a hardback or an eBook now!

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