Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Review: Pretty Bad Things by C. J. Skuse
Publisher: Chicken House
Released: March 1st, 2010
Grade rating: A
SIXTEEN-YEAR OLD TWINS IN CANDY-STORE CRIME SPREE. Twins, Paisley and Beau Argent are in the headlines again. Last time, they were the 'wonder twins', when as six-year-olds they were found alive in woods after three days missing following their mother's death - three days spent looking for their dad. Now at sixteen, life's not so wonderful. Out-cast and exploited by their money-grabbing grandmother they're still clueless about their dad's whereabouts. Until they discover an old letter from him. That's when they decide to hit the road - and make headlines again. Holding up fast-food joints in Las Vegas might seem extreme but if they can get on the news, and tell their dad they need him, they might get the dream reunion they never thought could happen.
When I first received a copy of Pretty Bad Things, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was what I'd learnt from the cover: it was something to do with siblings, Vegas and a gun. Quite a random mix, eh? Pretty Bad Things does feature two twins, it's set in Las Vegas and, yes, a firearm enters the equation. In addition to this, it's also about sacrifice and love, and the lengths people will go to to be reunited with those closest to them.
C. J. Skuse's writing is among the best I've read in the past few years, and her words are brimming with snark, wit and humour. I laughed out loud plenty of times, usually at something the ever observant Paisley came out with -- that girl can talk her way out of anything, whether it be a robbery or an arson attempt. She's the complete opposite to her brother, Beau, who is quiet for the most part, though he does step up and come out of his shell as the book progresses. Buddy is also an interesting character, and is one I'm hoping to see more of in the future. As a father, he's been pretty absent for most of Paisley and Beau's lives, but their bond is still there and, in true fatherly fashion, he'd do anything for them.
The Vegas backdrop is a brilliant setting, with lights and glamour par for the course on The Strip. I've never seen Vegas in real life, and I doubt I ever will (scared of flying), so I was fascinated to read about it in such detail. I came away feeling like I'd been living in a seedy hotel and walking down the dingy back alleys late at night, just like Paisley and Beau. Skuse definitely has a skill when it comes to scene setting, and I've been listening to The Killers all day in response. They're the best thing to come out of Vegas, in my opinion!
Pretty Bad Things is cool, edgy and daring. It's one of those books I couldn't put down, and it's one of those debuts that deserves a place on the YA map of fame. I'm so excited to see what this author writes next, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed it will feature Paisley and Beau. They are two rockin' dudes!