As I mentioned in my last post I am taking the books long-listed for the YoungMinds Book Award to Meadowhead school for the Reading Leaders to review. I thought I would sneak a look at Them and Us by Bali Rai for my latest Barrington Stoke review.
I am not surprised Them and Us is up for an award. Bali Rai, has a deep understanding of how to construct a thought-provoking story in the quick read format. Them and Us is just 85 pages, (all the other long-listed books are about 200 pages or more).
Bali Rai has written five books for Barrington Stoke with more on the way, he is an expert in writing short, powerful books. Them and Us is no exception. Unusually it starts in a low-key way. Page one is mostly concerned with house work. By page three we get drink, drugs, domestic violence and, crucially, racism.
David moves to a new flat and a new school to escape his abusive father. He is a white kid in a black neighbourhood. He suffers racist abuse, and when his dad catches up with him he must deal with intolerance on both sides.
The subtle details really make the story for me. David lives with his single mum and is often on his own whilst she works shifts. He is amazed at his Asian friend's home of three generations. Similarly the real trouble starts with a silly argument about Christmas.
Them and Us is a great read that handles the difficult subject matter perfectly. It seems like there will be no end to the cultural clashes. The book doesn't offer a happy-ever-after ending, but David and his mates definitely point the way forward for all of us.