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The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan - Review

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Where did I get it? I picked it up from the library when I went to my craft group. I was going on holiday so I was thinking hard about what books to take, so I browsed the "new" section in the teen section and picked this up. 

What's it about? Bobby Seed is seventeen and is a carer for his mum. She has Multiple Sclerosis, and is getting slowly sicker and iller. Bobby's brother Danny is fourteen and has something like autism, although it's not named, so Bobby has to do a lot of caring for him too. Bobby joins a group for young carers and meets some new people, including the charismatic Lou, who is American and rides a vintage Vespa. The two of them end up on a residential trip for the young carers group.

But Bobby's mum is really getting more and more ill, and she can do less and less for herself. Finally, desperately, she asks Bobby to help her die. 

This is a really funny book, despite the grim subject matter. The relationships between Bobby and his mum and between Bobby and his brother were both excellently written, as well as the family relationship the three of them had. Bobby's friend Bel provides some light relief too, and Lou is perfect as the novel's antagonist. He's a bit of a bad lad, and Bobby develops a crush on him which develops throughout the book. 

It is set in Scotland, I think, and the family is living in poverty due to having to survive on Bobby's mum's disability payments. There are a few comments on the current political climate for disabled people, which I liked (being a massive leftie myself). I also really liked how Bobby and Danny's dad (or dads) was never mentioned - I liked the idea that Bobby's mum had just decided to have kids by herself, or that he just wasn't relevant to their lives. More positivity for single parent families please! 

It ended how I thought it would, and it's really sad, and written beautifully. I have only read Brian's collaborative book with Sarah Crossan, which is written in free verse, but I definitely thought there were shades of that poetic writing within the simplicity and sparseness of the writing here. I really liked it. 

What age range is it for? I'm going to say 16+ due to extremely sensitive subject matter 

Picture taken while I was lounging around a pool in Cornwall last week!
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Well, Bobby isn't straight, but he never puts a label on himself. I actually liked this - it felt like the family as a whole had rejected labels consciously. A couple of times both Danny and Bobby's mum make homophobic comments, which went a way towards explaining why Bobby kept that part of himself private. I liked this whole story arc, I think it fitted in well with the rest of the book. 

Are any main characters people of colour? I don't think so 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, obviously Bobby's mum is. There's quite a lot of description of her illnesses and limitations, some of it may be upsetting. Danny is too, although there's less description of that. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it was age appropriate in my opinion. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, honestly this was one of my favourite parts of the book but I won't give spoilers! 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, obviously. It's very sad and gorgeously written. This book will make you cry. 

Are there swear words? A few. 

What criticisms do I have? I felt like in parts it skated on the verge of being too simple - there were parts where I would have liked a little bit more depth. But honestly, it's a really minor thing. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Simply because I needed to give it back to the library before too long!

What other books is it like? Like I say, I think it had echoes of Brian's book with Sarah Crossan. 

How many stars? Four out of five. An excellent example of contemporary YA

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