Shadows (by Tim Bowler)

20 12 2011

Jamie is a talented squash player. However, the joy of playing squash has long left the boy because of his father’s incessant pushing always to do better. His father was once a gifted squash player himself, yet had to abandon his career, and has now vested all his hope of “becoming someone” in his son… even if it takes force. Jamie (and his mom!) is punished and physically abused when he doesn’t perform the way his father wants. For his father everything is about the end result and the competition (in the book this is with a boy called Danny), never about the journey or just the joy of things. Parallel to this houseroom drama, Jamie meets a girl on the streets, you know, “hiding in the shadows”, pregnant, on the run for 2 shady looking men…. Of course everything and everyone is connected and in the end (unfortunately) things are ‘resolved’.

Apparently, Tim Bowler is Carnegie Medal winner material, but the cat doesn’t feel love for this book… Everything in Shadows is just too… ‘too’…. It made the cat shudder (not in the good way) and nod her head  ‘this is not really happening, is it?’, but alas, it was… Everything happens just a tad too coincidental, everything is way too neatly resolved, Shadows is just way too much of a ‘message book’… Despite this fact (or because of this fact) it’s also completely unrealistic (the girl giving birth and half an hour later she’s on the run again, like…for real?).

Bowler wants to tell the story of the pushy overbearing father who puts too much pressure on his suffering son, but he just *had* to put other things in the story to give it some kind of adventure twist (Jamie runs away, yadda yadda yadda). Completely unnecessary, in the cat’s opinion. Why not just focus on the conflict between father and son and explore this in an honest and believable way rather than just make daddy the big bad wolf who is of course oh so sorry at the end, yet never actually show the thought processes that were behind all this? Shadows is all about the conflict, never about  the character. Just like Jamie’s dad  wanted to see results, Bowler seems to want to prove a point and rush to the resolution of the conflict and nay if you do not repent, repent, repent!

Shadows is symptomatic of what was lacking in a lot of ‘old school’ children’s and young adult fiction: the freedom of the reader to decide things for him/herself. Everything in this book screams ‘ISSUES, ISSUES, ISSUES’, careful: ‘MESSAGE, MESSAGE, MESSAGE’. The cat is not a fan. Can Tim Bowler do better than this?

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