Publisher: Electric Monkey.
Paperback, 334 pages.
Release date: March 4th 2013.
Rating: 4½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.
His lips touched mine and for one split second the whole world stopped. Then every cell in my body fizzed into life . . .
When I decided to write a book about my life I thought I'd have to make loads of stuff up. I mean, who wants to read about someone like me?
But as soon as I started writing, the weirdest thing happened. I found out I wasn't who I thought I was. And I stopped being scared. Then everything went crazy! Best of all, I discovered that when you finally decide to be brave it's like waving a wand over your life - the most magical things can happen . . .
Claire Weeks isn't who she thought she was. Bullied, alone, lied to and cheated of the family she deserves, the day she finds Cherokee Brown is a day that changes her forever. It will take courage and a few crazy stunts along the way, but she's sure of one thing: her life will never be the same again...
There's something about Siobhan Curham's writing that just makes me smile. She's not afraid to tackle the toughest of issues but she does so with such care and humour, her characters become instantly likeable and her worlds totally believable. I absolutely loved her young adult debut, Dear Dylan, but she dutifully rose to the challenge of meeting (and surpassing) my expectations with this heartwarming coming-of-age story.
Claire is an easy protagonist to relate to. Her experiences are unfortunately not uncommon ones, but she has a unique voice and strong, clear motivations - but it's the little details that make it stand out from the crowd. Claire narrates her tale following the advice of the hilarious (and entirely invented) Agatha Dashwood's 'So You Want To Write a Novel?' a plot device which provides much-needed light relief against a backdrop of serious storytelling.
At the centre of this thematic focus is the bullying Claire has suffered through ever since her best friend moved away. Sometimes I find bullying is distorted in books for dramatic effect, but here it's portrayed with utter realism - the bullies are Claire's classmates, who have nothing better to do than make her miserable and pass it off as simple teasing. They're popular and well-liked, but everyone knows their secret - and the teachers ignore it for the sake of their reputations.
It's important to mention how well the plot is constructed, however. It's solid, making the occasionally hard-to-handle themes easier to swallow by completely taking our mind off what Claire's going through at the right time. After receiving a message from the father she was convinced wanted nothing to do with her, Claire discovers a whole new universe to make her own. It's rough around the edges and it's not without hardship, but there's a warmth to the characters who populate it that's lacking in the rest of the book. A small romance also features, but the age difference between Claire and Harrison (genuine and gorgeous though he was) made it seem rather unrealistic to me.
I also would have liked to have seen more of Claire's relationship with her little brothers, as I felt their presence was under-utilised, and I was also left frustrated by the lack of real confrontation between Claire and her mother, whose ignorance frankly borders on neglect.
On the whole however, my only real wish was that the book had been longer - it was such a good example of the fact that UK YA is really expanding beyond the gritty Britain we're used to reading about.
In short: Finding Cherokee Brown was a really solid read - definitely deserving of a place on anyone's list of favourites.