When Sophie tries to kiss her best friend, Tye, he rejects her, and she wants the earth to open up and swallow her whole. Instead, the world explodes. Or at least that’s what it feels like when a speeding car smashes through her sitting room window, destroying her house and putting Tye into a coma.
Gorgeous, enigmatic Gemma plans to travel the world as a music manager. Her twin brother Harry has a promising future as an artist. What are two high fliers from the posh side of town doing drink driving in Sophie’s neighbourhood? And what will happen when Sophie runs into them while visiting Tye at the hospital and finds herself drawn to Harry, in spite of her loyalties and better judgement?
Meanwhile, Sophie’s 11-year-old neighbor, Issy, witnessed the crash and has important information that could change the course of Sophie and Gemma’s lives, but before she can share it she’ll have to work up the courage to reveal a shocking secret of her own.
Drakeford uses both alternating viewpoints and multiple timelines, but I was never confused or unengaged. Her writing is razor sharp, and her characters are impeccably drawn. Gemma and Issy are particular highlights. Both of their storylines are utterly compelling, but for polar opposite reasons, and it’s very impressive that Drakeford makes their journeys fit together so organically, and feel rooted within the same world.
The sudden, literal crash in the first chapter initially appears to be the novel’s inciting incident – and a very effective one at that – but each character has already had something vital fracture within themselves before the accident happens. The crash might smash Sophie’s window, but for these characters it is actually the trigger that will allow them to piece the broken pieces of their lives back together.
Helen Crawford-White’s bold, silver and black cover is eye-catching and obviously plot relevant, but it is also a beautiful representation of one of the novel’s deeper themes. If you look carefully at the broken shards of glass surrounded the title you’ll see that they could not be fit neatly back into their original positions. When lives are impacted by violence and trauma people cannot always go back to who they were before. The power of love and friendship can help us to glue the broken bits together again, but they will be shaped into something new.
This is a compulsively readable novel, an attribute that is not often fully appreciated as by its very nature readability makes the difficult seem inevitable and effortless. I was expecting more of the minor storylines to intersect in later chapters, and perhaps on some level anticipating a bigger twist at the end, but on reflection I think the restraint shown here is the right choice. Similarly I didn’t always fully understand Harry’s choices or motivations. This could have been remedied by making him a fourth point of view character, but ultimately doing so would have thrown off the balance achieved in the narratives of the three girls.
“This is a compulsively readable novel, an attribute that is not often fully appreciated as by its very nature readability makes the difficult seem inevitable and effortless.”
This is a beautiful exploration of love, fear, violence, and redemption. It deals with difficult issues and offers painful insights into the cruelties people can sometimes inflict on each other, but more than anything else it is a celebration of human resilience.