Review Blog

Sep 25 2009

Without looking back by Tabitha Suzuma

cover image

Corgi Books, 2009.
(
Ages 10 +) Highly recommended. We've all heard harrowing stories of children abducted by one parent, leaving the other in fear and anguish. Tabitha Suzuma weaves a powerful story around three children trapped in just such a traumatic situation. For Max, Louis and Millie, life in Paris with their high flying French mother is difficult enough without their parents fighting for custody in a vindictive divorce battle. The children know that their Irish Father is at risk of losing them due to his fragile mental state, so a final weekend with him before the start of the new school year is especially important to all three.
However, what begins as a weekend in Paris turns into an unexpected flight to England. A promised week of extra holiday as a special treat stretches into two, and finally the children are confronted with the truth; their father has kidnapped them.
The story is told through the eyes of twelve year old Louis, the middle child and a talented street dancer. Gradually all three children adjust to their new lives in the Lake District and Louis's friendship with fellow dancer Tess, seals their fragile sense of security. However, Louis and Tess's winning entry in a dance competition is reported in the newspaper, and terrified of discovery, their father forces them to flee again.
Suzuma maintains a cracking narrative with a strong vein of realism and plenty of excitement and tension. She confronts difficult questions in a way that young readers can relate to, but which never avoids the reality: however the situation resolves, someone will lose out. The unexpected ending shows just how messy such situations can be and left me longing to find out more. Perhaps there is room for a sequel? Tabitha Suzuma is already an established and impressive writer for teenagers and here she turns her talents to a younger readership. The strong plot, coupled with Louis's passion for dancing keep the story fresh and up to date and able and mature readers of 10+ are in for a treat.
Claire Larson

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