***BLOG TOUR*** "The Deviants" CJ Skuse (YA)

The Deviants

The Fearless Five - Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane -spent their teenage years exploring and playing together on nearby islands just off the coast line - always inseparable. Years later, Max and Ella are still a couple (from when they were 13) and best friends. When Corey is bullied, the group reunite to seek revenge on the perpetrators but their coming together also leads to a succession of revelations and suddenly the secrets some of them have tried to hide can no longer be hidden......

This is a Young Adult novel but I would also recommend to adults. It is original and fresh and bravely tackles a number of dark, complex issues in an engaging and bewitching narrative which I found enthralling. Within a few pages I could tell this book had a kind of magnetic power and I was entranced by Ella's voice. Skuse's use of simile, imagery and description is quite unique and impressive - highly original and so accurate I found my fingers desperately highlighting line after line while my eyes rushed on with the story!

Ella describes her relationship with Max as "like those really old paintings you see in art galleries....If you look at them from a distance, they're beautiful. A quick glance, it's a masterpiece but as you get closer you see the cracks." They have a very complicated relationship - getting together at 13 after practically growing up as siblings, they are incredibly close; true best friends. Now they are stumbling to negotiate their way through the next phase of their relationship as their physical needs and emotions are becoming more pressing. But there seems to be something deeper holding Ella back - something more than just nerves or self consciousness.

From the outset there is a sense of secrecy and Ella talks about going back to before "things went wrong"; Corey also claims to know Zane's secret. Ella's comment at one point that "I was enjoying myself..It felt odd...It was an emotion I always tried to shut out because something bad always happens when I'm happy," heightens the tension and sense of foreboding that Skuse astutely creates within each line and maintains until the end of the novel.

The use of italics at the end of most chapters was very effective - whose voice is it? In what context are they responding? What have they to do with the story? Where is Ella as this recount takes place? My guesses merely compounded my sense of trepidation and intrigue.

When we meet Fallon, we realise that the group of friends are quite a haphazard, quirky and rather dysfunctional group of young people. Fallon's mother is an Animal Rescue Specialist which also includes euthanasia and cremation and Fallon explains in a very down to earth manner - "we burn 'em....it's good business." They are quite a ramshackle group of characters, full of issues and complications but very loyal to each other and prepared to help each other come to terms with past events.

I have to talk about Skuse's use of language because this was just so impressive and what made me completely devour the pages. For example, Ella's description of her friend Corey is very imaginative. He's already a troubled child before the bullying as Ella tells us his grandparents took him in and "wrapped in him home knits and crisply ironed school uniform." When Ella finds him under attack she describes him as being "curled up like one of those little cellophane fish you get in Xmas crackers" which I thought was incredibly clever. I was also left cowering from Zane (the bully) who had a "scowl that could shatter glass." Later I really enjoyed Ella's caustic words when she said "he gave me a look as if I'd given him a bunch of barbed wire to cuddle." I have never come across metaphors quite like them before; each one shows how intelligent and gifted Skuse is a writer.

The references are contemporary and appealing for a teenage audience. How about when one particular bombshell is dropped and "it was like in Scooby Doo when they see the monster for the first time only we didn't yell zoinks or drop our sandwiches." Original huh?

And I really could go on and on.......the description of "memories dangling before my eyes like gold stars I can't reach" capture the emotional complexity and psychological difficulties they are trying to process. Then towards the end of the novel Skuse's detail of flickering lights and rickety staircases create such fear that reading these passages was worse than watching "The Silence of the Lambs" for the first time!

The ending is just fantastic.

This is a dark, dark novel. It is macabre in places. It is harrowing and it is painful. It is most obviously about cruelty and revenge but there are also plenty of other themes like families, relationships, bullying, intimidation, secrets, love and friendship. However, this is most prominently a highly engaging and compelling novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am keen to find out more about this author who seems to have quite an extensive back catalogue - how exciting! Lots more to discover!

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for approving me an advanced copy of the novel in return for a fair and honest review.

Author bio

C.J. Skuse was born in 1980 in Westonsuper-Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels, works as a freelance children’s fiction consultant and lectures in Writing for Children at Bath Spa University. 

C.J. loves Masterchef, Gummy Bears and murder sites. Before she dies, she would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Ryan Gosling present her with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Find CJ on Twitter at twitter.com/CeejaytheAuthor
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