Ostrich boys by Keith Gray
Random House, 2008.
(Age 13+) Highly Recommended. A compelling exploration of friendship, trust and loyalty driven by a punchy storyline and three very realistic and likeable teenagers.
Unusually in teenage fiction girls take a back seat as Gray explores friendship among boys. In one telling episode Kenny's new girlfriend questions just how supportive boys are of each other, suggesting that they never talk in depth or discuss their emotions. For Blake, Kenny and Sim actions certainly speak louder than words. Enraged by the hypocritical adults present at the funeral of their friend Ross they want retribution and justice. In a moment of madness they steal Ross's ashes and head for Scotland to the place he always longed to visit.
Along the way they meet numerous colourful characters and in true Road Trip tradition encounter some very hairy situations. However as the title suggests the three friends are hiding both secrets and emotions which begin to unravel as it becomes clear that the circumstances surrounding Ross's death are not as straightforward as they first appeared.
This is a complex plot that unfolds gradually and inexorably, testing friendship and loyalty to the limit. Gray has such a sureness of touch, driving the Road Trip plot with consummate skill and empathy and using episodes of black humour to relieve major tensions and anguish. By the denouement I felt I really knew these boys and I didn't want to leave them behind.
Try this one with your male readers. Fans of Kevin Brooks are sure to love it.