Barrington Stoke (11+)
Rook is the third standalone novel featuring brothers Nicky and Kenny, following McGowan’s earlier novels Brock and Pike. When the boys rescue a rook from a sparrow hawk attack, learning-disabled Kenny immediately becomes attached to the injured young bird. Nicky doubts the scruffy bird will make it, but then Nicky has plenty else to worry about – a school bully, his first love, and the fact that everything is about to go very, very wrong.
The power of this short novel lies in Nicky’s authentic voice and the author’s ability to represent the inner life of all his characters. Nicky’s cynicism, his protective love for his brother and his wry sense of humour are expressed with language that is both simple and poetic. Every word used is apposite. The novel deals thoughtfully with themes of bullying, first love, faith and what it means to be part of a family. Both the urban and natural settings are equally vividly portrayed as are the effects of poverty. It is undeniably gritty, unflinching and authentic and yet manages to demonstrate a life-affirming warmth too.
Anthony McGowan has written several young adult novels, including Hellbent, Henry Tumour, which won the Book Trust Teenage Prize in 2006, and The Knife That Killed Me which was adapted into a highly acclaimed film in 2014. He has written widely for younger children, including the award-winning Donut Diaries series, and Einstein’s Underpants, which was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2010. He lives in London.