They were the Fearless Five; Ella, Max, Fallon, Corey and Zane. But when Max’s sister Jess died, the distance grew between them. Ella and Max are still dating, but she’s starting to feel the pressure to have sex, something that fills her with dread. Zane’s turned into a different person, a bully, and his target of choice is Corey. And Fallon? Well they haven’t seen her for years, not since her mother lied at Jess’s inquest.

We lost touch just after she died, didn’t we? We were all… ruined.

The Deviants is a dark and compelling story dealing with the tough subject of sexual abuse. Chapters start with a question, one being asked to Ella, who narrates, which gives it the feeling of her being in therapy or perhaps being questioned by police. The book starts with a body washing up on shore, then goes back to the events leading up to that point.

Ella is a star 400m runner sponsored by Max’s father but she has anger issues she refuses to deal with or talk about. She’s rather just punch something. Her relationship with Max is strained and I think it’s something that happens a lot and doesn’t get talked about. The assumption that everyone is having sex and it’s abnormal not to be, so they try and get it over and done with. Max seems to care about her though, and he ends up angry that she thinks she has to do something she doesn’t want to do to please him.

Corey is such a sweet character. He has cerebral palsy but that has never stopped him being a great friend and it’s not his defining feature. When his beloved cat Mort goes missing, the hunt brings the group of friends back together, all but one, and soon they are plotting revenge. But there are two sides to every story and the sleepy seaside town of Brynston is swimming with secrets.

I liked the twisted Famous Five vibe. There is a definite sense of loss of innocence amongst the group and a desire to go back to the simple old days, where they had picnics and adventures and they could dare Fallon to do pretty much anything.

Why bother? As soon as the picnics and the fishing are done, it’s all exams, and jobs, and divorce and bullying and rejection and cancer. And death. Childhood’s just one tiny little window of hope.

There were a few little details here and there which didn’t seem quite right and pulled me out of the moment, but I think that was just my picky brain. Like there’s a real food hygiene problem going on in Fallon’s basement if her mum is actually making black pudding for sale down there and Neil seemed awfully rich for someone who owns some garden centres in what felt like quite a rural place. But none of these things are crucial to the characters or plot. Neil managed to still be perfectly repugnant and smug with his obsession with how much he spends on things.

I’m not sure I liked the epilogue, it went on quite a bit about how everyone was doing after the story had really ended. It took a little bit of the wind out of what was otherwise a powerful story.

The Deviants is published by HQ Young Adult, the new name for Mira Ink, and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 22nd September 2016. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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Also reviewed @ Jess Hearts Books

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.