This week, I’ve chosen to write about two books by Cath Howe for my Longer Read(s) of the Week. They are Ella on the Outside and Not My Fault and are published by Nosy Crow.
What it’s about: Young Ella has just moved to a new house in a new town to escape the gossip following her father’s arrest and imprisonment. She’s already upset and insecure enough without having to worry about making friends in a new school, so when a very popular girl called Lydia shows an interest in being her friend she’s more than a little grateful and eager to please. However, soon she finds out that Lydia’s attempts at friendship aren’t entirely without expectations and Ella has to decide what kind of friend she wants to be.
What it’s about: Sisters Maya and Rose do not get along. They don’t talk to each other or sit with each other at school (despite being in the same class and the same year). And it’s been this way ever since The Accident. Rose feels guilty, Maya is eaten up with fury. When they have to go away on a school trip together, their relationship is put to the ultimate test. Will they make up or break up for good?
My reviews: Ella is a heroine you root for despite her, at times, poor choices – Howe creates such a sense of empathy and sympathy for her. At heart she is a kind soul who knows good from bad, but because of her difficult situation, she quickly finds herself doing things she knows aren’t right – and the reader understands exactly why and forgives her even while urging her to change her mind.
In Not My Fault, Howe creates an interesting dynamic between the sisters – not twins but born very close together. Rose is fearful, quiet, guilt-ridden, while Maya is angry about The Accident and how it has irreparably changed her. When their mother begs Rose to keep an eye on her sister during the school trip, the reader cannot help feel sorry for the poor girl, who has too much responsibility on her shoulders. Meanwhile, Maya flies out of control and becomes increasingly unlikable – by the reader and her friends. At first it feels as if you’re taking sides but then you gradually learn things that soften your attitude towards her.
I read one book after the other in less than a week and thoroughly enjoyed both stories. Where Lisa Thompson has recently garnered the crown for sensitively exploring boys’ emotions in her novels, Cath Howe is surely her equal in portraying girls’ feelings. These are excellent novels for young girls and boys who are learning to navigate their way through the complicated maze of pre-teen emotions and friendship groups. I look forward to reading the next novel by Cath Howe.