Stone by Finbar Hawkins

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Stone begins with great emotional impact. Through the voice of Sam, we learn that his soldier father has recently died in Afghanistan as a result of an explosion. Despite the imminent funeral Sam goes to a party to escape this grim reality and meets a girl called Oona, who he is instantly infatuated by. The funeral is realistic and heart wrenching as he becomes overwhelmed and needs to escape the people at the wake. He takes the dog for a walk and in the process finds a strange stone which has supernatural powers. The stone seems to give him unnatural strength and he has frightening visions from the past, wolves and owls appear and so does his father. Sam becomes very aggressive and he is goaded into violence by an old enemy. He is also jealous of his best friend Chad because Sam believes Chad will win over Oona. Oona has extensive knowledge about the occult and teaches Sam what she knows. The story builds to a climax at Samhain/Halloween when the local young people have an outdoor celebration.

Hawkins very successfully creates a flawed and sometimes unlikable character in Sam. He is jealous and violently reactionary in his grief. At the same time these are believable traits, especially when he feels so guilty about the way he ended his last conversation with his father. However, we also know that he loves his mother and sister and feels a strong need to care for them. Luckily his sister is a foil for his impulsivity and she has great emotional intelligence. The supernatural connections to this ancient rural part of England and mythology are likely to be intriguing for many young adult readers.  Yet it is the complex human relationships which drive the story. The support he gets from the psychologist, Oona and a kind older man guide him to make more positive choices. The addition of Hawkins illustrations, Tarot card art and the lists of Sam’s memories about his father, add extra layers to this insightful novel.

Themes: Grief, Love, Friendship, Supernatural.

Jo Marshall