Disbelieved by Beth Webb
Disbelieved: Skin and Bone CSIs is a change of pace for this newsletter. It‘s YA (young adult) fiction, young adult being a euphemism for older children. But children’s books make great reading for adults who want some light relief, or a thumping good adventure without a whole slew of sex and violence. Think Harry Potter or Terry Pratchett’s Disc World books. Although I’m not sure bookstores have it right when they shelve Terry Pratchett in the children’s section and come to think of it, there’s plenty of violence and even some kissing in Harry Potter.
Back to Disbelieved: Anelise’s father is an eccentric entomologist, away on an extended field trip; Joe’s mother is an eccentric forensic scientist, currently giving evidence in a murder case in a city a train journey away. The cousins live together, because, we gather, the adult brother and sister live together, in a house where the basement has been turned into an insect laboratory and the front room has been turned into a crime laboratory. So far, so good. We have the setup for the ‘kids run free without the adults’ plot of every YA novel from The Railway Children onwards (The Swiss Family Robinson was published in 1812, but my memory tells me adults were substantially involved). Disbelieved has a significant twist on the formula: Anelise sees things before they happen. The author plunges us straight into this and never seeks to explain, although it causes Anelise a lot of anxiety. Anelise dyes her hair a different colour every weekend, and dyes it back on Sunday evening. Joe has a ponytail, a cloak, and carries around a full forensic kit in his backpack. Not your everyday kids, then.
The story is thoroughly modern. This is definitely not Harry Potter. For Anelise (15/16) and Joe (17/18), the world is one of mobile phones, social media, exam pressure and an ever-present side-show of drugs. Yet they race around on bicycles in a gently evoked landscape of quarries, byways and small towns, as kids have for generations. And in the landscape that they know so well they meet dangerous adults, of course, and they solve a crime, of course, and the police are obtuse, of course.
What I particularly like is the way the two of them always do the exact opposite of what adults have advised them to do, and even do the opposite of what they have advised themselves to do while laying clever plans to trap bad guys. This author knows teenagers.
If you want a fresh read for a summer’s day; if you get a warm fuzzy feeling when you remember Swallows and Amazons or Five Children and It, Disbelieved is for you.
Disbelieved is available direct from the author in the UK, in book shops and on Amazon. In the US there is a Kindle version and it is on Kindle Unlimited, but Amazon lists the paperback at a bizarre price.