Publisher: Chicken House
Release Date: 2nd July 2015
Edition: UK paperback, review copy
It’s Olivia’s seventeenth birthday party. That last thing she expects to see when she stumbles into the bathroom is her best mate Nicola giving birth on the floor. How could she, when Nicola had no idea this was coming either? She’s so not ready to be a mum, and she needs Olivia’s help. But Olivia has her own problems – a controlling problems, Jonty, and lonely little sister, Alice, for starters. And then there’s their friend Ben, with secrets of their own.
The party to end all parties has started something epic…
When I first heard about The Baby I was a little worried that it would try and be too much like Non Pratt’s Trouble, but Lisa Drakeford’s debut stood strong and I really enjoyed it.
Now, I’m a huge fan of split narratives and The Baby takes that a step further. The novel is split between five perspectives: Olivia, Nicola, Alice, Jonty and Ben, but they only have one section each, telling the story consecutively in close up third person. It was a really cool structure. I enjoyed feeling like each of the characters had their own little story within the overall arc; it was refreshing. At first I had assumed that Nicola’s would stand out among the others being the mother of the unexpected baby, but they each held strong in their own way. All five characters were complex and flawed in an incredibly warm and relatable way, event Jonty who I really hated from the first few perspectives. But it was Alice who was my favourite.
Alice is an incredibly clever eleven year old and she’s heartbreakingly lonely. Being different in year seven is tough and she just can’t seem to figure out how you make a friend. She spends her lunch and break times in the library, knows the best way to avoid the horrible girls in her school when walking through the hallways and she just doesn’t understand what’s going on with her big sister (Olivia) and all her friends who usually flood her house. The blunt honesty in her narration and speech was refreshing and funny and so open in comparison to the rest of the narrators.
Next to Alice, it was Nicola who I felt for the most. She’s seventeen and suddenly a mum and her mum has made it clear that this is her decision and she’s on her own. The way she was judged by people on the streets, her old school friends and her mum is heartbreaking. She’s very lucky to have the best friends that she does. I hated that it was her that had to face everything while the father got off mostly scot free: it’s always the girl that’s the slut, the irresponsible one, the one that messed up and it’s so, so unfair. It takes two to tango after all. I won’t spoil anything for you, but I was pleased to see the dad eventually taking responsibility and getting stuck in as much as he was able. It definitely changed the way I viewed him for the better.
With an unexpected twist, a fascinating structure and genuine, interesting characters, The Baby is a solid debut and I’ll be looking out for more from Lisa Drakeford.
Thanks to Chicken House and Riot Communications for the review copy.