Twenty questions for Gloria by Martyn Bedford

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Walker Books, 2016. ISBN 9781406363531
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Thriller, Running away. Twenty questions make up the chapter headings as we sit in on a police interview. DC Ryan is talking with fifteen year old Gloria, missing for nearly two weeks with a boy of the same age from her school. Her mother is also in the room. Initially disdainful, even rude, Gloria answers DC Ryan's questions briefly, needing further questioning to draw out more exact answers. Reticent Gloria cannot tell why they ran away, but over the several days reveals how their relationship began and proceeded. Uman from a private school came to live with his grandmother after his family's death from a deliberately lit house fire. He is witty and urbane, clever and impulsive, thoughtful and thought provoking. Gloria has not seen anyone like him, his disdain for the conventions of school, his ability to see that she is bored and unsettled with her life. He questions her ideas, her beliefs about life, her dissatisfaction. Intrigued, she becomes drawn to him. From there they decide to run away, she thinking it for only a night or two, but as they become more engrossed with each other, time away stretches into weeks.
Their idea of freedom grows as well: they throw away their mobile phones and decide to go somewhere 'happy', a holiday place known to Gloria from family trips in the past. They thread their way towards Penzance, but find themselves out of money. Here Uman is attacked by a group of drunk men and they end up in hospital, but leave before Uman is ready. Their attempt to follow their dream starts to unravel.
The story gives a clear idea of what motivates both children, although Gloria's parents and the police officer find it hard to forgive Uman and constantly give hints that Uman had a motive of which Gloria was unaware.
This is a page turner, a thriller, the reader wanting to know how they survived on the run, what Uman wanted and where he is now. The bald questioning by DC Ryan contrasts with the flow of the narrative as Gloria tries to convince the police officer and her mother, and even herself, of why they did it. At first she appears to be a very selfish young girl, but over the length of the novel, the reader is drawn to both characters as they learn more about them and their relationship in what is a most engrossing read.
Fran Knight