Friday, 31 July 2015

By the People for the People

The Not the Booker Prize

In an effort to “get people talking about books, to promote previously unknown authors and to reward some quality books,” The Guardian called upon its readers to nominate their own choices for their favorite books of the year, stating in a July 29, 2009 article: “The judges of Britain’s most prestigious literary award pick the wrong book far too often. But who could be trusted to make a better choice? Why, the readers...of course.” Voila! The Not the Booker Prize was born. A sort of literary referendum by the reading public for the reading public.

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I was very pleased to see Tasha Kavanagh's book Things We Have in Common (Canongate) on the Not the Booker list as I had heard Tasha reading an excerpt at the Finchley Literary Festival and found myself intrigued. 

Things We Have in Common is a creepy tale of loneliness and teenage obsession, described by its publisher as “Sue Townsend meets Zoë Heller”, with overtones of Emma Donoghue’s Room.

From the first sentence, I found myself sucked into a story that had me on edge. The narrative shifts between creepy, poignant and darkly humourous were overwhelming at times.

'I typed How to spot a paedophile into Google on my laptop. About a billion sites came up. I took a quiz on one. It showed pictures of people (men mostly) and you had to click Yes for paedophile or No for not a paedophile. I only got half of them right, which technically means there was a 50 per cent chance I was wrong about you.'

Kavanagh has captured the voice of the teenage outsider, the misfit, one who is overweight and living with a stepfather whom she dislikes whilst all the time missing her father who died the year before. She is ostracised and bullied by fellow classmates who are really cruel, the thing that gets her through is a massive crush on a fellow pupil, the pretty and popular Alice. With the help of her imagination, she makes up situations that cast her as a heroine and a much-wanted object of love.

Kavanagh writes the novel entirely from Yasmin's point of view in second person. Yasmin speaks to a man with a dog, who she calls `You' and whom she suspects wants to abduct the lovely Alice. Yasmin's story is essentially very sad but also disturbing, at times the reader is unsure of her reliability as she is prone to lying and being very secretive.

As a detective reader, I suspected how the novel was going to end but I was hugely surprised which is a good thing.

Yasmin’s young voice is so spot on, brilliantly realistic, whilst still being naive, optimistic and extremely fragile. The book is so well written that I felt at times I was prying into a young girls diary. It is a clever book and will keep the reader glued and guessing until the last page. 

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Things we have in Common made the Not the Booker shortlist:

Kirstin Innes – Fishnet (Freight Books)
Kat Gordon – The Artificial Anatomy of Parks (Legend Press)
Oliver Langmead – Dark Star (Unsung Stories)
Paul McVeigh – The Good Son (Salt)
Tasha Kavanagh – Things We Have in Common (Canongate)
Melanie Finn - Shame (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

and now it's time for the Not the Booker Prize final judgment. Vote here

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