Two teens run away to a better life—temporarily.
Gloria Ellis, a self-described 15-year-old white girl, has “a nagging sense of restlessness. Of dissatisfaction” with her life—as created by her discontented parents—at Litchbury High in Yorkshire when “posh-spoken, polite,” and slightly androgynous new student Uman Padeem strolls into her classroom, defies the instructor, and asks her best friend to sit somewhere else so he can sit next to Gloria. Uman, who is also 15 and describes himself as “Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, basically,” further flatters Gloria by glomming onto her wit, loneliness, and yearning and subtly manipulates her. And she is, as her instructor gently reproaches, “in his thrall.” Even though Gloria suspects that Uman’s story about himself doesn’t jell, she agrees to run away with him. Her initial exhilaration goes flat, starting with the recognition that, as they venture further into the rural parts of the country, as “a dark-skinned guy with a white girl,” they would attract attention. Even as Bedford turns the story on the gripping device of a detective interrogating Gloria about her two-week disappearance with Uman, he fails to interrogate his own treatment of Uman as a character. Uman never really moves beyond inscrutable and exotic, the creepily flattering boyfriend, which reinforces the stereotype of the Middle Eastern man luring away white women to their disgrace, if not peril.
A page-turner that runs aground on a shoal of stereotype. (Thriller. 14-18)