I don’t know how it came to this, when being friends became so hard. When I was a kid, making friends was easy. On my first day of school, I shared my crayons with Mbeke and that was it, we were best friends. Now it’s so complicated. We say things we don’t mean, don’t say things we do.
When Adamma Okomma’s family move from New York to England, she finds herself enrolled at Crofton College, a boarding school on the outskirts of nowhere. Her social life is pretty much over until she befriends the irrepressible Scarlett Chiltern who rules the roost. She soon learns that there’s more to life at Crofton than meets the eye, including parties in the woods and a whole world of secrets. When Scarlett goes missing, everyone assumes she’s just run away again, but what has really been going on behind the teachers’ backs?
But then you never truly understand the resourcefulness of teenagers until it comes to acquiring alcohol.
There’s something wonderfully indulgent about boarding school stories. Perhaps it’s the concentration of teens in one place and lack of parental supervision; the whispers behind dorm doors and the opportunities for meeting boys in the woods. Crofton College is co-ed and that means boys. Of course, Scarlett and Adamma fall for the same boy, but this is much more than just a love story. It’s a tale of secrets and half-lies, friendships and fallings out. Another fantastic book from Tanya Byrne.
“I thought you weren’t going to put me in the middle, Dominic?”
“I know.” he smiles slowly. “But you’re already there.”
Savernake Forest becomes quite a presence in the book. It’s where everyone goes to escape the confines of the college, to have fun and get drunk. But it also takes on a sinister edge when the rumours start up. The story also touches on rape culture; the reasons why some girls won’t report rapes, how others can make it into some kind of joke or blame themselves. It’s not a story overtly about rape but it deals with these issues in a way that may make the reader consider their attitude towards them.
At first, I thought the structure was a bit too similar to Heart-Shaped Bruise. The narration is split between the current day and the not too distant past, with alternating chapters finally coming together in time at the end. Yet the tone of the book made it more distinct; the characters are very different even as the story deals with teen secrets once more. It’s also rather grown up young adult, really touching on the moment where teens become adults as well as having a strong supporting adult cast. Mrs Delaney the matriarch, Mr Lucas the young teacher who can relate easier with the students, DS Bone a wonderfully approachable policeman and Adamma’s parents who may be physically absent but are definitely very present in her life.
But that’s England; one day I’m wearing a sweater, the next I’m in sandals. I think that’s what I love most about the English: as soon as there’s a hint of sun, everyone goes outside.
This is the kind of book you’ll want to start re-reading as soon as you finish. The narrator leads you astray and the ending will have you flicking back through the story to pick up on key points at the very least. The characters are multi-faceted, all have both bad and good qualities which make them real and also allow you to doubt them. You will change your mind about the outcome so many times, I swear!
Follow Me Down is published by Headline and will be available in hardback and ebook formats from 9th May 2013. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review. Follow the conversation on Twitter with #FollowMeDown.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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