My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Disclaimer: Review copy received via netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
Battersea, 1961. London is just beginning to enter the swinging sixties. The world is changing – but not for sixteen-year-old Violet. She was born at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced Victory in Europe – an auspicious start, but now she’s just stuck in her family’s fish and chip shop dreaming of greatness. And it doesn’t look like fame and fortune are going to come calling anytime soon. Then she meets Beau. Beau’s a rocker – a motorcycle boy who arrives in an explosion of passion and rebellion. He blows up Violet’s grey little life, and she can’t believe her luck. But things don’t go her way for long. Joseph, her long-lost brother, comes home. Then young girls start going missing, and turning up murdered. And then Violet’s best friend disappears too. Suddenly life is horrifyingly much more interesting. Violet can’t believe its coincidence that Joseph turns up just as girls start getting murdered. He’s weird, and she feels sure he’s hiding something. He’s got a secret, and Violet’s got a dreadful feeling it might be the worst kind of secret of all…
V for Violet is the story of Violet, a working-class girl in the early 1960s, stuck working in her family’s fish and chip shop. Her life is shadowed by the loss of her older brother during the war, and her arrival into the world a year later largely went unnoticed – the loss of Joseph still hangs over the family, 16 years on.
Violet is also drifting away from her best friend, Jackie, who has a new job at the sugar factory, and with it, a new gaggle of friends.
And then there’s Beau – the rocker who Violet can’t help being attracted to.
First off, I loved the setting – I loved all the little historical details, and this book really does feel like a fresh addition to the YA market. This is a book which makes you feel like you’re immersed in the 1960s, and the plot involving Joseph was really well executed. I loved the murder mystery element to the story – it really adds a tone of suspicion to most of the characters, and again, it feels different to a lot of YA novels today.
Most YA characters tend to be middle-class, with no money worries or a care in the world – but not Violet. Still being bossed around by her parents, she rebels with rocker Beau, your typical bad-boy and suspected murderer. Even though the bad boy rhetoric has been done a thousand times before, Violet’s attraction to him in understandable, and the murder mystery aspect of the novel adds a darker edge which makes Beau stand out.
I also enjoyed the sub-plot with Jackie – both Jackie and Violet are growing up – and apart – which is a story that I think most people can relate to but is rarely touched upon in YA. Often the heartbreak of losing a dear friend can be more than losing a love interest, and the difficulties in Jackie and Violet’s friendship are realistic and relatable.
If you’re looking for a new UKYA novel that will sweep you off to the swinging 60s, V for Violet is available in all good UK bookshops from 7th April, 2016.