Review Blog

Jul 07 2009

Exposure by Mal Peet

cover image

Walker Books, 2008.
(Ages 14+) Highly recommended. Set in South America and featuring Paul Faustino, a football reporter, Exposure follows the books Keeper and Penalty. This can be read a stand-alone novel. The central story is loosely based on Othello: the characters get their names from the play and the book is divided into 5 acts. A star footballer, Othello, meets a beautiful pop singer Desmerelda at a celebrity party. They fall in love and quickly marry much to the delight of the media. But Othello has a deadly enemy, his jealous agent Diego, who plots his downfall. Alongside this plot are several linked stories examining celebrity, racism, poverty and the politics of the country. The main subplot revolves around three street kids. Bush is a hardworking orphan who looks after his sister Bianca and friend Felicia and who earns a little money by running messages for Faustino and other journalists in the press building.
A complex, challenging book, I read this over several weeks, as I allowed the parts of the interwoven stories to seep into my brain. Knowing Othello, I expected that there would be tragedy at the end and dreaded coming to that final stage. Ultimately the conclusion fitted well into the 21st century and what constitutes misfortune in the eyes of the media today.
The story of the street kids was the one that kept me engrossed. Here too I knew that there would be tragedy. Peet's description of the poverty that the children lived in was heart rending and anyone who reads this book will come away with a greater understanding of just what it is like to be homeless.
Peet's main characters, Othello and Desmerelda, have a thinly disguised resemblance to David and Victoria Beckham and I found it fascinating to watch how the media portrayed the pair. The cost of celebrity was made very clear. Faustino's beliefs gradually changed as he grew to know Bush and his companions and the other characters are finely drawn.
A review can't do justice to such a formidable book. I believe it would be an excellent choice for a class study. (Teacher's notes are available). It would provide much engrossing discussion about celebrities, poverty and class structures as well as being a fascinating modern comparison to the original Othello.
Pat Pledger

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