Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Hole - John Davey

Sally Cross has a hole inside her; an emptiness left when her mother died that seems to be sucking the joy out of life and the life out of her. School is going down the pan with the added joy of having to cope with bullying. Her relationship with her father has hit bumpy ground and gets bumpier when she realises he has started to see another woman. Happy days they are not. And as if that was not enough, Sally begins to wonder if she is not going mad. Because things move, strange lights glimmer, the hamster levitates, and someone is leaving obscure graffiti in her school locker.

What might have been a run of the mill teen-angst work of doom and misery takes an intriguing turn once Sally decides to take charge and find out what is going on. She soon finds herself regretting it, catapulted into an alternate universe where she must confront a terrible evil. At this point the book could have become a run of the mill fantasy adventure, but the author avoids this as well.

With a lightness of touch and some startling and original images, John Davey creates a nightmare world with a nightmare logic. Sally and her companions must fight their way through making use of the skills they have to defeat the plans of the evil they find there.

The book is well constructed and well written. The character of Sally Cross is well drawn and we share her emotional ups and downs without the book ever becoming falsely sentimental. It keeps up a good pace but also allows itself room to breathe. There are moments of real horror, there is humour, and a satisfying resolution that nonetheless stays within the bounds of the real – the happiness is tinged with sadness.

I have read a lot of children’s and young adult books over the years. This ranks up there with the best. It is good storytelling based on plausible and realistic characters. It is unfussy. It is a great read.