Right at the end of the dying year I started hearing about a book that was getting huge respect in the Young Adult realm, particularly the UK YA blogs. Although the first book in the South Crongton Trilogy Liccle Bit had been published in 2015, it was Alex Wheatle’s second YA book Crongton Knights that has really started gaining ground for him. In November 2016 it won the 2016 Guardian Children’s Fiction Award, this month it has become the choice for the @MidlandsCLS (Creative Learning Services) 9 for 9 Challenge and was named on the @readingagency #MoodBoostingBooks List. I haven’t checked but having read it, I know it won’t stop there.
Crongton Knights is the story of a group of friends who go to retrieve a phone from an older ex-boyfriend of one of their group. She had used it for sexting him and now more mortified for her own under-age mistake than aware of his sexual abuse, was desperate to get it back. Knights without armour, terrified but determined, the group had to take the bus to a neighbouring estate where different gangs ran the area and weren’t going to appreciate the visit.
The writing is both very funny and deadly serious; brutal and tender. Very unpredictable but with a pace and coherence that pulls you along even through places you’d rather avoid. Dialogue driven with an adapted street slang which emphasizes the complete otherness of how many young people live today, it is nevertheless deeply recognizable.
What is so brilliantly remarkable about this book, along with the very best of the contemporary YA stable, is the absence of armour. Wheatle shows us the real courage it takes to navigate through an environment of broken rules for which you are ill-equipped, and the consolations of open friendship and self-control.
I’m looking forward to April and the third in the trilogy, Straight Outta Crompton. I’ve a few readers here tapping their fingers.