Verdict: 5 Stars
Polly Courtney first made news on this site earlier this year for abandoning traditional publishing after her self-published titles gained some well-deserved attention from the industry; at the time, Courtney had some strong words for her feelings about the experience, including her embarrassment over her book titles and the way traditional publishing lumped her into genre categories. Her return to self-publishing was like a weight lifted as she once again had creative control over her process.
Undoubtedly, a title like Feral Youth would epitomize the experience for Courtney. Its deft handling of crucial issues facing young people today and its exploration of the racial tensions and poverty-line discrimination that is still prevalent in even the most affluent, forward-thinking societies paints a very genuine picture of life for teenagers, but it might not be a publishing industry marketing team’s dream book.
With any book submission for traditional publishing, the same question has to be asked: who would want to read this book? If that audience is too small to risk the investment, the book is rejected. But in the case of Courtney’s work, the question has a very profound answer: ANYONE with a brain, and even the slightest measure of concern for society, especially its young people.
In Feral Youth, fifteen-year-old Alesha faces struggles the likes of which most readers have never and will never face. Living with her boyfriend at that young age because her own mother is lost to a world of crack addiction, Alesha is a pinball for every enemy in society, bouncing her around from gang to school to narrow minded and judgmental people. The single most striking thing about Alesha is the way she feels so in charge of her life while still being the person with the least amount of control over her fate. Used and abused, she is despised for even existing, a status she never asked for or wanted.
When one person shows an interest in trying to help her, even the help that is offered in the form of a minimum wage job is inadequate and pointless, as Alesha points out her ability to make far more money selling drugs. She falls victim to what clueless do-gooders hold out in the form of salvation, despite their not knowing anything about her condition.
The only downside to Feral Youth, if it could even be called one, is that it is written in the vernacular of the South End of London. The slang and the sentence structure might be difficult for some readers, but if they work through it they will come away with a profound understanding of life for these children.
Feral Youth is available from Amazon.