Our theme for the Convent book group this month is Bullying, and Gordon Reece's Mice (2010) is our YA title. I borrowed this from the local library, whence I shall shortly return it, so that other Conventers can have their turn.

Shelley thinks of herself and her mother as 'mice', meek perpetual victims whose survival tactic is to run and hide - from the girls at school who savagely bully Shelley; from Shelley's dad, who oppressed her mum for years and finally abandoned them; from her mum's boss, who exploits her. But everything changes when a stranger breaks into their remote cottage and terrorises them. What happens that night will change the 'mice' forever...

I had really mixed feelings about this novel. It's a cracking read, pacy and engaging, and I raced through it. But I had a few serious problems with it. Firstly, I didn't buy the narrative voice, which sounded much more like a middle-aged man than a sixteen year old girl. Second, I was troubled by the implications of the story, which seems to suggest that empowerment and self-assertion can be most securely won through violence against others! Crime and Punishment this ain't, but it does a good job of tracing the psychological aftermath of a violent act. Lastly, and most trivially, I was annoyed by a sprinkling of typos which should really have been picked up in the proofing stage, something that publishers can't really afford to do thoroughly any more.

I'll be interested to see what my fellow book groupers make of this one. It's set in the UK, but the author lives partly in Australia, so I'm counting it as #LoveOzYA.

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