Title: In Bloom
Author: Matthew Crow
Publication Date: 19 Sept 2013
Source: Review Copy
Synopsis from Goodreads
A poignant and unexpectedly funny novel about Francis – one of the best and bravest teenage boy narrators since Adrian Mole. This is an emotionally honest story about wanting the very best from life, even when life shows you how very bad things can be.
Francis Wootton’s first memory is of Kurt Cobain’s death, and there have been other hardships closer to home since then. At fifteen years old he already knows all about loss and rejection – and to top it all off he has a permanently broke big brother, a grandma with selective memory (and very selective social graces) and a mum who’s at best an acquired taste. Would-be poet, possible intellectual and definitely wasted in Tyne and Wear, Francis has grown used to figuring life out on his own.Lower Fifth is supposed to be his time, the start of an endless horizon towards whatever-comes-next. But when he is diagnosed with leukaemia that wide-open future suddenly narrows, and a whole new world of worry presents itself.There’s the horror of being held back a year at school, the threat of imminent baldness, having to locate his best shirt in case a visiting princess or pop-star fancies him for a photo-op . . . But he hadn’t reckoned on meeting Amber – fierce, tough, one-of-a-kind Amber – and finding a reason to tackle it all – the good, the bad and everything in between – head on.In Bloom is a bright, funny, painful and refreshing novel about wanting the very best from life, even when life shows you how very bad it can be. It is a novel about how to live.
REVIEW BY BETH
In Bloom’s synopsis immediately had me thinking of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Is this just another cancer novel? Yes it’s an emotive topic but can it be overdone? Are there too many novels dealing with this topic at the moment? I don’t think so and I think In Bloom is brilliant and is at least The Fault in Our Stars’ equal. I would even say I prefer it over the huge American hit because it has a British-ness to it which makes it easier for me to relate to.
Crow’s protagonist is Francis Wootton. I immediately liked the idea of this novel because of its Nirvana-esque title and although there’s very little about Nirvana within I wasn’t disappointed. Francis is a brilliant protagonist, he’s funny, genuine and blunt. He’s planning to get on with his life as usual, worrying about moving onto his next educational challenge and then bang. Leukaemia.
Francis’ priorities change, the things that mattered before fade into insignificance and new things become extremely important. With his hard as nails mum, wayward brother Chris and selectively forgetful Gran on his side, it’s heart-warming to see how Francis steels and battles through. The novel is blunt, Francis realises the horror of losing every hair on his body and then everything changes when Amber arrives.
Amber turns up on the unit where Francis is being treated and his priorities change once more. She becomes his reason to keep fighting and get the best out of the life they’ve got.
Crow’s voice is refreshing, it’s not a new story as such and key moments in the plot are unfortunately not a surprise but then that makes the novel more true to life. Crow presents cancer to us without bows and ribbons, there’s no dumbing down to teenagers and no sense of glossing over things, Crow’s story is brilliantly written and yes there are sad moments but they’re more than made up for by the humour and poignancy of others.