Friday, 10 October 2014

An English Boy in New York

An English Boy in New York by Tom Easton (Hot Key Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-1-4714-0149-7
Reviewed by Jacque Duffy

Oh boy I was excited when I received this book in the mail. The follow up on Boys Don’t Knit, which was quite possibly the best book for reluctant teen readers I have read in years. Once again I couldn't put Easton’s book down, except when I was wiping tears from my face. I adore Tom Easton’s characters and writing style.

An English Boy in New York, is the second book in the series. Sometimes in a series it is helpful to have read the previous book, and I believe this is the case with this book. Having said that though, I believe once the reader has read into the second chapter they would be completely hooked. Ben, the main character is still very likeable although he is less flawed, or perhaps he is flawed in slightly different ways. You still want him to succeed; you want to keep listening to his ‘voice’. In the previous book, because of an ‘accident’, and subsequent punishment and probation, he won a national knitting competition. His prize, a trip for two, executive class, to New York, to appear at another knitting event. Unfortunately, due to his continued probation he is not allowed to go until his probation officer puts her job on the line and pulls some strings.

Once he has permission, a string of unfortunate events unfolds, starting with his choice of travel companion. New York is explored beautifully through the eyes of this unusual teenager and his gangster wannabe friend Gex. I could go on forever extolling the merits of this book; it has certainly been the subject for discussion in my home.

Tom Easton has had over a dozen books published. His writing talents range from chapter books to young adult novels. An English Boy in New York and Boy’s Don’t Knit are very clever. The book is perfect for reluctant teenage readers and if read in a senior classroom situation would raise healthy discussion. I found it refreshing, the serious matters of peer pressure, sex, vandalism, and theft, are raised in this story and handled in a modern yet sensitive way without being condescending or preachy. The characters are fully formed (especially his parents) and each supports the main character well.
Jacque Duffy is the author and illustrator of picture book The Bear Said Please and the series ‘That’s not a …” learn to read books used in all Queensland State Primary Schools and one local history coffee table book.

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