Sweet sorrow by David Nicholls
Hodder and Stoughton 2019. ISBN: 9781444715415.
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Sweet sorrow is a lament to the end of childhood and to first love. A bildungsroman, the novel follows Charlie Lewis on his quest to get to know the lovely Fran Fisher, amateur actor and Shakespeare aficionado. In an attempt to impress, or get her number, Charlie agrees to join a production of Romeo and Juliet that the Full Fathom Five Theatre Co-operative are organising over the Summer. Without his mates to join him in his scorn, Charlie finds himself intrigued with the players and the drama students.
While he scoffs at theatre sports, Charlie finds himself with friendships completely different to the friendly scuffles and drunken antics of those he's known before. Being part of the play allows Charlie not only to get close to Fran, but also to grow as a person independent of the politics of the boys and rebelling against his parents' expectations. But the pressure of looking out for his father and navigating the ditch between his parents and him and his sister is almost too much. When the walls Charlie built to keep himself and his dad safe start to crumble, everything quickly comes crashing down.
Told both in the present and retrospect, Sweet sorrow follows the summer Charlie threw off social expectations he'd come to respect in school, he starts to work to pull his life together after the stress of his father's erratic behaviour, bankruptcy, and divorce sends him down a dark and spiralling path of failure. I would highly recommend this novel to boys twelve and up who struggle to fit in and achieve at school as they might find some parallels with Charlie.