The first half of this intriguing but flawed tale from Ireland’s first children’s literature laureate is spellbinding.
Caring for his little sister, Julie, now 8 years old, has been a struggle for Jono, 14, since Da took off, but with Gramma’s help, he kept the household going. Now that Gramma’s dead, there’s not enough money left over to support them after Ma’s bought her sherry. Without a clear plan, Jono flees with Julie from Dublin to Galway, where Da lives. Jono’s an appealing, funny and observant narrator, so it’s all the more shocking when, halfway through the book, readers discover he’s left out key events that will transform how they perceive him, lying by omission. Unreliable first-person narrators can be tricky, and here’s where the story runs into a wall. Because readers never learn why Jono lied to them or how to gauge when he can and can’t be trusted after they do, they are unable to interpret the story. Working backward from the abrupt ending, readers can by inference distinguish some truths from lies, but with a lingering sense of betrayal.In fiction, as in life, trust is essential to emotional engagement. Without reason to trust Jono once his lies come to light, it’s hard to care what happens to him. (Fiction. 12 & up)