Wednesday 31 January 2018

Review Time! - Goodnight, Boy by Nikki Sheehan

Goodnight boy title image with book stack and purple border

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Title: Goodnight, Boy

Author: Nikki Sheehan

Genre: Kids (Middle Grade/MG,) Young Adult*, Contemporary**

*YA crossover appeal


Amazon: UK - USA

A few starting notes:

I received a free review copy of this book from the publishers, Rock the Boat, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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I read and reviewed Nikki Sheehan's Swan Boy back in 2016 - and that was a work of art.

Since then, I've been in contact with Nikki online, and I have to say that she rocks.

So when the opportunity came up to review Goodnight, Boy, I was in two minds.

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Partly, I wanted to take the book as quickly as possible and devour it in fangirlish glee - but there was also a hesitance.

Because it's always hard to review a book written by someone you know - even if you only know them on Twitter.

I actually tend to be harsher on people I know, in order to counter-act any unconscious bias towards them that I may have. I'm perfectly capable of liking an author while remaining critical.

So, I thought I'd let you all know from the outset that I DO KNOW NIKKI.

I'm still going to be completely HONEST and FAIR (and hopefully she'll still talk to me afterwards!)

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This book is about a Haitian boy who moves to America, so if there are any #ownvoices reviews from Haitians, black reviewers, or reviewers with experience of emigrating to the USA, please let me know.

I'd love to link to your reviews!


JC has been confined to the back-yard and the doghouse, along with his dog, Boy.

In a foreign country, neglected, and alone, apart from Boy, we learn of JC's past... and wonder, alongside him, about his future.

Best bits:

Nikki Sheehan could write the ingredients for cornflakes, and I'd probably still read it. Her writing is something special and beautiful.

Honestly, I don't think anyone can find fault with her meandering and eloquent prose. It's excellent.

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This entire book is JC's mental monologue - sometimes spoken out loud, though where one ends and the other begins is not entirely clear - addressing Boy throughout their lonely days together.

It's ambitious - the story of a boy from Haiti, uprooted and moved to the US, only to find himself in less-than-ideal circumstances.

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The characters are deep and complex; everyone has reasons and motivations for what they do, even if we never hear them.

And Sheehan makes difficult subjects understandable without ever writing down to her audience.

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Emotional manipulation is where Nikki excels, and she really doesn't hold back here. She gives her readers the feels. Constantly.

This book is heart-breaking in all the best ways - raw yet hopeful, painful yet sweet.

JC's bond with Boy - his only friend in this weird world he's found himself in - is truly beautiful, and shows just how important animals can be.

You will have moments of cursing Nikki for the feels she induces - dammit Nikki I'm human! ;) - but in the end, it really is something special.

Not so great bits:

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Potentially distressing content includes:

- people trafficking
- abduction
- earthquakes
- death
- serious illness/injury
- loss of a child (grief)
- child abuse
- animal abuse
- child neglect
- animal neglect
- adoption from a foreign country
- illegal immigration
- starvation
- dehydration
- car accidents
- alcohol abuse

This is for kids aged 11-12+ - I can't see the content being suitable for anyone younger, and some kids of that age may not be ready to read it.

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A strong case could be made that Nikki wasn't the 'right' person to tell this story - a white British woman writing the story of a black Haitian boy will be an uneasy match for many.

I know that a lot of people have issues with stories such as this one being written from outside the identities they portray, which is a valid point to bear in mind.

I personally think she pulled it off - but I may be wrong. I honestly don't know enough about Haiti to judge how well she does or not.

If anyone has written about this in more detail, please let me know!

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The pacing with this one is a bit off in places. (Sorry Nikki, but it's true.) There are parts you zip through, and parts which drag unnecessarily.

The ending feels like it takes forever to come, and then is over in a heartbeat.

I think either it needed a shorter lead-up, or a longer resolution; whichever is the case, it's slightly jarring.

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I also feel like we needed to see more of JC's new mother, Melanie.

In some ways she was the most complex character of all, but in others she really needed more page-time in order to be 'fleshed out' fully.

She ends up coming across as a little inconsistent - eager to have JC there, but barely spending any time with him. It didn't ring quite true - though it's a minor point, overall.

While I loved the bond JC has with Boy, I think Boy, too, could've done with just a touch more detail and personality.


Did I love it as much as Swan Boy? No - but then, I wasn't expecting to.

What I did find was a beautiful story, told with utmost skill and awesomeness. It's excellent.

Buy Now UKBuy Now USAGoodreadsAuthor's Site

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  1. This sounds wonderful! Especially the writing and all the emotion. And the bond with the dog <3 I'm glad you enjoyed it and found it so beautiful.

    1. It was wonderful! But it wasn't overly-emotional in a 'ugh, calm down!' kinda way, y'know? It struck a good balance! :)

  2. I’m really happy that your reviews go into all the positives and all the negatives of a book! Keep staying unbiased Cee, that’s so important! In terms of this book, I think it looks great! Although like you said, I would like to read some own voices reviews as well.

    1. D'aw Em, you're so sweet! XD Thank you! :)

      It's awesome!!! I def. would like to read #ownvoices reviews though - because this is a lot beyond my realms of knowledge!

  3. I don't really read MG (even if they may appeal to YA readers), but I do make a fewwww exemptions, and "heart-breaking" pretty much got me. Heh. So glad you still loved this, despite loving the author's previous book more. Awesome review! <3

    - Aimee @ Aimee, Always

    1. Thanks v much! And I hope you do give it a try - it's awesome! (If you're looking for heart-breaking though, Swan Boy has ALL the feels!)

  4. oh oh I want to read it! Immigration! I absolutely love that topic! and well written :) I'll be posting a few reviews for books about immigration soon :) The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez is really good!

    1. Immigration is more one of many topics here - but it *is* important to the story; there's a lot about people trafficking, and how difficult it is to get into the US, without it seeming lecture-y or pretending to have the answers! :)

  5. This does sound really interesting, it must be difficult to review a book by someone you know. I think your review sounds really well balanced so you did a fair job!


    1. Thanks! It can def. be difficult to review books when you know the author - but it happens with book-blogging, where we *do* end up talking to authors sometimes, so we all have to try and find ways to keep things honest and fair!


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