Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Life and Loves of Cherry Bakewell by Rai Jayne Hearse

Okay, I’ll come clean. I have to like this one. Rai Jayne Hearse is a former student of mine from the University of Salford and I first met Cherry Bakewell in a dusty old room in our beautiful red brick Peel building.
 Rai Jayne worked on this novel on my Writing Novels for Young People course. When she tweeted that she had graduated, I replied that I knew- I’d been at the ceremony. She then replied that her novel was being published. I looked up the publisher - saw that it was kosher if a little unusual - and out of curiosity submitted something myself that has now also been published. Usually it’s the other way round: the lecturers introduce the students to publishers.
 I read a lot of young adult literature and indeed just before I read The Life and Loves of Cherry Bakewell I read a similar length novel by an established young adult writer who writes what I describe as chicklet-lit. I’d put Hearse’s book in the same category – except I’d say she does it better. The established writer irritated me a little. Hearse’s writing is fresher and pacier.
Her characters are believable and likeable – even the villains. Cherry changes satisfyingly by the end of the book. There is progression. Short diary entries maintain the pace. Hearse writes with a strong awareness of the young adult reader. She has precisely the right voice for the text.
It seems I am proved right. Every year at the beginning of my module I tell my students they are ideally placed to write for this reader. They have the writing skills, they are precisely the type of people young adults want to become and they are young enough to remember that time clearly. Here’s to many more.