Monday, 2 June 2014
Review: Smart by Kim Slater
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: June 5th, 2014
There's been a murder, but the police don't care. It was only a homeless old man after all. Kieran cares. He's made a promise, and when you say something out loud, that means you're going to do it, for real. He's going to find out what really happened. To Colin. And to his grandma, who just stopped coming round one day. It's a good job Kieran's a master of observation, and knows all the detective tricks of the trade. But being a detective is difficult when you're Kieran Woods. When you're amazing at drawing but terrible at fitting in. And when there are dangerous secrets everywhere, not just outside, but under your own roof.
Smart, Kim Slater's debut novel, is a fantastic addition to children's literature. Even though it's fairly short and fast, it's impossible not to fall in love with main protagonist Kieran and his somewhat troubled family life. He's someone I ended up respecting and liking after just a few chapters, and I was genuinely sad to reach the end of the book.
Kieran has a form of autism, a struggling mother and an abusive stepfather figure. His life is anything but easy, yet he still tries to see the best in everything and concentrate on what he enjoys. He wants to be a reporter and is actually really driven when it comes to his future career - much more focused and determined than I ever was. He's caring and compassionate and completely open-minded about everything and everyone. If he can help someone, he will, even if they're homeless and thought of as worthless by everyone else. Kieran sees people for who they are, not for their situation, and that in itself is surely the best way to be in life.
One day Kieran finds a homeless man floating dead in the river. Everyone thinks Colin just fell in when he was inevitably drunk or confused, but Kieran knows it's not as simple as that. He's convinced someone murdered Colin, and he's the only one who can solve the crime. He utilises his skills at drawing to help him catalogue his clues, and he also makes friends in the most unusual of places.
Kieran's home life is nothing like it should be, and instead it's scary and difficult. His mum is out at work most of the time, leaving Kieran with his mum's partner Tony and his sketchy son Ryan. Tony is abusive to both Kieran and his mum, installing in them a fear that no-one should ever have to feel. This book doesn't for one minute brush anything under the carpet, and instead chooses to show this kind of home life through the eyes of a young boy. It's all the more shocking and heartbreaking, and makes me infinitely grateful that I had loving parents and a stable upbringing.
Smart is a coming-of-age detective novel with a difference. It's beautifully written from Kieran's point of view, and is open and honest in all the right places. I've seen it compared to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, but I haven't read that myself so can't comment on any similarities. What I do know is that it's a lovely book with an even lovelier character in Kieran, who in turn has a great voice that will reach a lot of people. Kim Slater is an author to watch - do yourself a favour and remember her name.