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BOOK BITES | Sally Partridge, Sarah Bonner, Jo Browning Wroe

27 March 2022 - 00:00 By Tiah Beautement, JENNIFER PLATT and JESSICA LEVITT

This week: a sweet book on teenage friendship, a heart-racing thriller, and a must-read novel set during the devastating Aberfan disaster

The Girl Who Chased Otters  ★★★★
Sally Partridge

Nathan and Olivia are friends. Well, sort of friends, in that they don’t quite fit in at school and occasionally talk to each other. But Olivia is fed up and wants “in” with the popular crowd, and Nathan offers his keen observation skills to assist her cause. But as Olivia rises, both begin questioning what they want. This is a tender and keenly felt story of friendship, and the challenges teens face. It is also refreshing to read an autistic character (Nathan) not used as a comedic or tragic device but as a person. A lovely read — and yes, there are otters. Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Her Perfect Twin ★★★★
Sarah Bonner
Hodder & Stoughton

This is addictive reading from the get go. Megan finds strange pictures of herself on her husband’s phone. She can’t remember posing on the bed in such a lurid way, nor purchasing and wearing an electric-blue bra. Later, scrolling through her estranged identical twin sister’s Instagram, she notices the same blue bra peeking out from her sister Leah’s dress. But Chris, her husband of four years, has never met her sister — for very good reasons. Or has he? So what is going on? Not good things obviously, but who is to blame — Chris or Leah? There are some jaw-dropping moments,  as well as moments that could be triggering for people who have been in abusive relationships.  Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

A Terrible Kindness ★★★★★
Jo Browning Wroe

William Lavery is 19 years old and is celebrating his graduation at the Midlands Chapter of the Institute of Embalmers Ladies’ Night Dinner Dance. He got top marks and is ready to embrace his future. He has the beautiful Gloria as his date, and everything is as it should be. Then there’s news of a landslide at a coal mine in Aberfan and the call for embalmers is put out. William manages to convince everyone that he’s ready. Despite being warned that he’ll see things that will traumatise him for the rest of his life, he decides to go. The devastation is unthinkable. Babies, children, entire families pulled from the wreckage, parents identifying their children by discoloured clothing because that’s the only thing that resembles what once was. Young William’s decision has far-reaching consequences for him. He calls off his relationship with Gloria and he comes to terms with his past in Cambridge — his relationship with his mother and how the death of his father affected her; his friendship with his best friend Martin. He learns how he was wronged and how he did wrong. It’s a teaching moment, the lessons beautifully weaved into the past and present by the author. The unknown, the mystery and the writing is what makes this all a must-read for 2022.  Jessica Levitt @jesslevitt