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Review: Born Scared by Kevin Brooks


Author: Kevin Brooks

Title: Born Scared

Purchase: Available in the UK and the US.

Overall rating: 4.5/5 stars

Great for: Fans of suspenseful reads and coming-of-age adventures

Themes: Thriller, YA, coming-of-age, contemporary, mental health



 

Review: Thirteen-year-old Elliot can count the times he has left his house on the fingers of one hand. Why would he need to when the only things that lay beyond his bedroom door are the fear of the unknown and apprehension over the possible death that awaits there? Dealing with the crippling anxiety that has clouded every moment of his life has put a strain on both Elliot and his family’s existence, but when his medication runs out and his mum hasn’t returned with his life-saving prescription, Elliot must attempt to face his fears.

Elliot’s story is an incredibly sad one and, unfortunately, not uncommon. Brooks approaches the subject with a sensitivity and yet a candour that was refreshing to read. He brilliantly represents the struggle of living with a mental illness and, whilst not always an easy read, this felt like an honest portrayal. And due to the exquisite quality of the writing, I felt I lived each moment of immobilising fear alongside Elliot.

Elliot’s character elicited emotions from me that made him both a sympathetic case and a relatable protagonist. Seeing the big, bad world through his eyes was a poignant experience and provided the reader with a better understanding and insight into the often inexplicable causes of fear, and the debilitating effects mental illness can have on an individual.

Coming to terms with my own anxiety earlier this year was a harrowing time and the hardest part was admitting what I was dealing with to myself. Admitting it to others proved even harder.

Awareness of mental health is still shockingly sub-par. Which is why books like this should be a necessary part of everyone’s literary programme, whether you can personally relate or not. A broken leg is an easily visible ailment and a mental illness is not. With little understanding, it is hard to grasp that another’s reality is now drastically different from your own. This book, although only representing one small sphere of the spectrum, can provide some tolerance and empathy.

The member’s of Elliot’s community often don’t understand the strange boy they know exist but never see. Brooks cleverly has them exhibit the various responses to mental health that vary from sympathy to disgust. The often subtle shades of difference demonstrated how misguided the uninitiated can be.

The separate narratives that construct this story converge in a shocking conclusion that had me breathless with suspense and expectancy. The story turned from painful and poignant to powerful and pacy. The plot had unguessable turns and illustrated how one small shift in your destiny can have a catastrophic impact on another’s.

The ending of this had me initially outraged. After experiencing Elliot’s journey with him the least I expected was a proper conclusion! With hindsight, however, the ending was a perfectly apt one. For this was not showcasing the entirety of Elliot’s journey, this was merely relaying the beginning of it.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which has in no way affected my opinions. Thank you to the author, Kevin Brooks, and the publisher, Egmont, for this opportunity.

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