Gillian Philip - Crossing the Line (4 stars)

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Gillian Philip - Crossing the Line

Fiction for teenagers often tries too hard to protect or lecture its readers, with sanitised characters and everything rounded off into a neat anti-drugs or anti-sex moral. It’s very rare, and exciting, to find a writer like Gillian Philip, who understands that adolescents are actually capable of sexual feelings and huge, true emotional understanding, and that they can knowingly inflict serious pain as Crossing the Line deals with the fallout of a school stabbing.

Philip’s protagonist is Nick, a former bully who carries a knife and graphically describes the beatings he’s administered. Out of this, somehow, grows a tender, touching and emotionally savvy examination of sibling relationships and adolescent angst, the taut thriller plot balanced by the problems of getting gorgeous Orla Mahon in the sixth year to even notice you exist. Philip’s grasp of schoolyard politics and power-plays is dead-on too, taking older readers kicking and scowling right back to the playground.

(Bloomsbury)

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