Another day, another review! This time of the poignant and sometimes shocking Saving Daisy by Phil Earle.
'For as long as I could remember it was always about the three of us. Me. Dad. And Mum's shadow.'
Daisy's mum is gone. Her dad refuses to talk about it. As far as Daisy's concerned, it's all her fault. As her life starts to spiral out of control, panic leads to tragedy and Daisy's left alone. But sometimes the kindness of a stranger can turn things around. A stranger who desperately wants to save Daisy - if she only let herself be saved...
This is another YA novel, the story of Daisy Houghton who is struggling to cope with the loss of her mother who she never really knew. In the solid 320 or so pages, her life takes a dramatic turn for the worse, leaving her vulnerable, often dangerously so. You can't help but root for a happy ending.
One of my favourite things about this was the intricate, well crafted relationships between Daisy and the other characters. A scene showing the heartwarming dynamic between her and her father made me smile (and crave beans on toast.) However, I also loved their struggles to be completely honest with each other. Perhaps love is the wrong word - but it definitely made for an interesting story. There were some tender moments between them that contrasted well with the emotional turmoil that Daisy has to suffer.
Earle's subtlety was also excellent and something I want to bring to my own writing more. Up until now, I've never come across a book that deals with self harm, an issue that's becoming increasingly important to address for young people. That was the shocking part for me: it was dealt with so sensitively, that I almost didn't notice it. Again it wasn't fabricated or glossed over, not overly talked about. There needs to be more authors like Phil Earle writing gritty fiction, who aren't afraid to tackle such themes. I learned alot from that aspect of the book.
In terms of setting, Earle's description of the beach and the cliff face that Daisy and Ade (more on her later) spend alot of their time worked well, along with the empty house. Alot of writers - including myself - seem to be drawn to the beach as a setting to put stories and I see why. It was a place Daisy's narration seemed slightly more at ease, a new place that she had never really explored, a place to clear her head. It was almost used as a literary device rather than pure coincidence, making the book well considered and thought out.
Moving on to Ade - Daisy's support worker at the placement she's put in and spends the majority of the book. She's a legend in my opinion. Earle's use of language and the relationship between her and Daisy contrast in a sense of hot and cold. Warmhearted and passionate, she obviously cares about Daisy's welfare - a clear representation of hope in the teenager's life. She provided some light relief within the chaos, along with the other kids there, and their dialogue was snappy, making it not too heavy or filled with melancholy.
The way that Daisy likens moments of her recovery with Ade to a film montage, linking with her love of DVD's and old movies, made it a more realistic situation.
On the other hand, even though the sudden, punchy version of events leading to Daisy being rehoused worked well, I felt some were overlooked, some lost in other threads of the plot. For example, an incident with a teacher was one of the inciting incidents in the book, something that drew me right in. However, it was lost and not fully solved. Perhaps this was an attempt by Earle to make things more convincing, but I would've liked some more closure on this issue.
In summary: Saving Daisy is an emotional rollercoaster of a book, with a deeply damaged central character that I wanted to glue back together. Sprinkled by a stellar supporting cast and punchy plot, it's a page turner that will hit you right in the stomach. Four stars.