Posted 20 hours ago

29 Locks

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Although this story was written using words and expressions from multicultural London, I found it an easy to follow read. This book demonstrates the realities and continuous cycle of drugs and violence of childhood in poverty.

The book is full of rich descriptions, fantastic characters, and hard hitting reality, mix all that with Donny’s first person narrative and you have the recipe for a fantastic debut. Difficult and complex issues are present on these pages, but the writing is so full of life and vivacity that you just glide along, keen to know how things will turn out for Donny, and rooting for him all the way.I shouldn't be on here because, well, I wrote the book, but it still makes me cry and laugh, even after 1000s of revisions and edits and months of rewriting on its journey to publication. We lived right by it in Ware, and I just loved the idea of walking down the towpath and seeing Donny, Zoe and Ziggy the dog cruise by on Zuma Jay! I gather that this book is getting a great reception among teenagers, and I can imagine that lots of young people will see themselves in Donny. The novel is dedicated to the memory of my former student, Mahad Ali, who was brutally murdered in 2017 at the age of 18.

No, what 29 Locks has is the ability to knock the reader down and make them sorely wish you could help Donny escape what seems to be an inevitable conclusion - another teenage addict, a runner for some arrogant faceless monster who loves money and cares little about consequences, a name on a faded memorial. My debut novel, 29 Locks, was shortlisted for both the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition and was longlisted in the Berkshire Book Award 2022. When Donny's posh new friend Zoe is offered a dubious modelling audition in London, the pair decide to 'borrow' a canal barge and navigate the 29 locks down to Kings Cross.

Donny is an inspirational hero who seeks justice in the face of overwhelming obstacles – it’s impossible not to fall in love with him! I was a runner up in the Poetry Book Society poetry competition, judged by one of my heroes, Carol Ann Duffy. A story that is narrated in first person, which I prefer as you get to know the character and Donny is a lad that I warmed to immediately on his and Zoe's journey of the 29 locks. This really hurt to read, if I'm honest after seeing the somewhat naive little boy at the beginning of the book become so jaded. Donny is a great narrator – his voice feels fresh and real and engaging, and he is another character, like Aoife in Iron Annie, that I refuse to believe does not exist in real life.

An adventure with Zoe leads to them following the waterways from Hartfordshire to London so Zoe can live out her dream, and Donny can see his Mum again when she's released from prison. The message I took away from the novel was that despite all the inequalities of this world there is always hope for justice. The final section of the book sees them both borrowing Andrew’s canal boat after Donny is placed on work experience with him. The two already have a close bond but their eyes are opened to the world, even Donny who has seen too much.

I am extremely grateful to the author and the publisher for providing me with a proof copy of 29 Locks in exchange for an honest review. I have 24 years experience working in secondary schools as an English teacher, subject leader and Head of PSHE. Donny is initially taken to a family who live across the otherside of London and despite loving for his Mum, he loves the simple comforts that most take for granted. Donny's fate as I say, seems sealed and he's to be either an addict or responsible for others no matter what he does.

Urgent, authentic, satisfying and an anthem for the ordinary spirit that burns so fiercely inside each of us. Life in the rural Home Counties is a bit like landing on another planet but doing work experience on the Hertford Union Canal, Donny feels like he’s finally found his purpose. After all, it's all he knows from early childhood and having a single mum addicted yo crack and God knows what else.She has taught in secondary schools for twenty-three years, including fifteen in an Islington comprehensive. There are several actions that could trigger this block including submitting a certain word or phrase, a SQL command or malformed data. I loved the scenes of Donny and Zoe escaping down the canal – it was especially engaging for me, as I lived in Herfordshire briefly, and I can picture that stretch of the canal so vividly.

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