The Chain by Keith Gray
I have a lot of kids books (big surprise there). Most of them at the moment are proofs though, sent to me by various lovely publishers. I often use these proofs to share a good book, maybe donate them to a school (who are usually desperate to get any resources, thanks to cuts) or more often I use them in little competitions to gets kids into reading or introduce them to an author I love. A very few though will not be leaving my posession because they mean too much to me. The Chain is one of those.
Four teens, four lives, one book. Cal just wants to stop being bullied. Joe needs to support his mother after his loser dad drops out of their lives. Ben wants to get with a girl, ANY girl, and misses the point entirely when he regifts a present from one girlfriend to another. And finally Kate, who finds a way to reconnect with her dad in a time when other conversation just won’t do. All through one battered book.
Just like it says on the tin, four teenagers have thier lives changed through their interactions with this one rather tattered and dog-eared old book. There’s something about each character every teen can recognise in themselves (or even every non-teen book blogger), whether it’s Joe’s desperation, Cal’s anxiety to do the right thing, Ben’s utter cluelessness (and hopefully not his selfishness) and Kate’s joy. More than anything though, The Chain is a book that recognises that one small thing can have a profound impact on you, and in the case of these four characters, it’s the effect a book can have.
As a book lover, I was always going to get that. Not exactly a surprise there. I link books to people, and some of those books are links to people I can only know through stories and association. My Opa is someone I never knew, but hugely respect. I always associate stories of him I’ve heard from my dad with a particular story I used to read when I was little, Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. One of the characters in the book seemed similar to my Opa so he became my Opa in a way. I love him because to me, that’s what my Opa might have been like. I never knew the majority of my grandparents and trust me, it sucks when you see how close other people are with theirs. Even when I was tiny I always regretted that I didn’t know most of mine (especially when I get compared so strongly to one of them) so believe me, that character and that book mean A LOT to me. I can understand exactly how much something otherwise quite ordinary can mean to a person and just how it can affect your life.
What strikes me about The Chain though is that rather than just giving each character an epiphany because of something they read in the book’s pages, the mystery book affects each teen’s life in a much more subtle way. For Cal, it brings matters with his bullies to a head in his mind and prompts him to reconsider exactly how he’s tackling them. Joe uses the book as the means to an end. Ben doesn’t so much use the book as the book uses him and presents him and all his flaws to the reader. And for Kate… for Kate it’s perhaps the most poignant of all, especially as she is the only character to actually read the book.
And the name of this book that affects all these characters so? Insert your own title here, because it’s never named. For me, it’s Danny the Champion of the World. For you, I don’t know, but that’s the beauty of The Chain – the book in the story? It could be yours. And the characters whose lives change, they could be you.
Brilliant writing, and a book I’ll be buying in droves for others rather than giving my own away.
Find it here
And as it’s Barrington Stoke, it’s dyslexia friendly, with a reading age of 8, interest age teen. Thank you SO MUCH to them for sending me a copy.