Gritty always scares me, and I’m never a fan of diving in to read the second book about a group of characters, and in the case of Alex Wheatle, whose award winning novel Crongton Knights is the subject of this review, I’d never heard of him until this summer. I felt left out.
But a Bookwitch can face all of the above if necessary, and I am so glad I did. Crongton Knights is a masterpiece. I’m not in the slightest surprised Alex won the Guardian Children’s Fiction prize for this book. And it may be the second book set in South Crongton, but it’s easy to jump right in and you will get it. You don’t actually need to know about Liccle Bit from the book by the same name, as this one is about Bit’s friend McKay, and Bit plays only a, well, Bit part…
And what a great pleasure to find a slightly chubby hero who likes to cook. A black chubby hero, living on a council estate, in a book featuring gangs and riots, which nevertheless ends with a few recipes for some of the food McKay enjoys.
Bit is in love with V, and she needs help. Bit gets McKay and Jonah to assist him, and Saira, the girl they both fancy, comes along as does someone who is the odd one out, the boy no one wants for a friend. They are only fourteen years old, so are bound to get things wrong, and they do. But what matters is friendship and carrying through your promises.
This is a funny story, and a sad one. They have known grief in their short lives and there is plenty of violence on an everyday basis. Money is short. Parents are unemployed. Outsiders are viewed with deep suspicion. McKay’s brother is up to something, but McKay is always kept in the dark.
I loved this!