An absorbing story about friendship and the nature of modern families.
Elin Watt and Jamie Lee have almost nothing in common. Elin’s on a quest to be perfect – the model student and the most helpful daughter. Jamie, in contrast, struggles to concentrate for more than a few seconds due to his ADHD and leaves a trail of destruction everywhere he goes. The only thing they share is a past where their parents argued and ultimately divorced. Elin’s mum is now with Jamie’s dad but, several years on, Elin still can’t accept this. She dreams endlessly of her parents reuniting. That’s why, when Jamie comes to live with them, she’s determined to do everything she can to use Jamie’s presence to separate her new blended family and create her own happily ever after. Unfortunately, she’s not prepared for what life will throw at her.
The story is told in two first-person voices – Elin and Jamie – in strict alternating chapters. This is always a risk as, unless skilfully handled, it can fail with the reader either confused whose viewpoint they are in or tempted to skip forward to the stronger point of view. Fortunately, this isn’t the case here as both characters are equally strong and – importantly – very distinct. (There’s a helpful name at the top of the chapter but this really isn’t necessary).
It is interesting, and somewhat of education, to read the chapters from Jamie’s point of view as these give a real insight into what it’s like to have ADHD. Indeed, in a way that is comparable to the now classic The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, this half of the book only works because we are in Jamie’s head and, therefore, able to understand why he acts as he does. Without this, I suspect the reader would end up strongly disliking Jamie instead of sympathising with him.
The title of this book would suggest the focus on the story is Jamie and his ADHD. While this is undoubtedly an important element, Elin’s story is equally important. As a character, Elin appears to be very simple but this hides an impressive level of complexity. Outwardly perfect, I especially like the inclusion of the details that hint at her underlying problems. This includes the stories she writes about a perfect princess and the way her grandmother has carefully constructed a world that is largely a lie in order to appease Elin.
While much of the book focuses on the growth and development of our two main characters, there’s a strong and dramatic climax that succeeded in bringing a tear to my eye. It’s also a book with strong themes about friendship and the nature of modern families.
If you enjoyed the changing viewpoints of this story, you might want to read Summer of No Regrets by Kate Mallinder which impressively combines four distinct first-person viewpoints. Alternatively, if it’s Jamie’s voice that appealed, you might want to get hold of a copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon.
Date: September 2019
Author’s website: Victoria Williamson