Thursday, 2 June 2016


Luke hates nature, preferring the excitement of computer games to dull walks in the countryside, but his view of the world around him drastically begins to change when enigmatic loner, Guy, for whom Luke is reluctantly made to feel responsible, shows him some of the secrets that the very planet itself appears to be hiding from modern society.

Hidden behind the everyday screen of school and family life, Luke tumbles into a fascinating world of magic and fantasy, where transformations and shifting identities become second nature.

Luke gets caught up in an inescapable path that affects his very existence, as the view of the world around him drastically begins to change.

** I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review **

Pica is an intriguing read, and certainly not one without its merits. It's a tricky one to review because there were a lot of things I liked about it and a lot of things I didn't. The story of a nature-hating school bully and his gradual transformation to a sort of literal eco-warrior is certainly intriguing, if riddled with implausibilities. Ultimately, it had a lot of good ideas, but a bit of a messy execution.

First up, the good. I genuinely loved Luke's completely relatable hatred of school! I've worked in education before and some of the descriptions of burnt out teachers just trying to get the the next smoke break made me laugh out loud. I also really liked the interesting pairing of Luke and Guy. It's not a sexual relationship (despite what the kids at their school think), but there's a hint of sexual awakening in Luke and his fall from bully to victim is quietly touching. Guy seems more of an asexual character than anything else, but I do wonder if the author was hinting that perhaps Luke burgeoning sexuality was moving in that direction.

Unfortunately that brings me onto something I didn't like so much. The inclusion of Cheryl, an awful cliche of the worst "yoof" stereotypes imaginable, seemed to be included only so Luke could stare at her boobs and assure the reader that he definitely, definitely wasn't gay. It's a bit of a shame, because I quite liked the ambiguity and subtext in Luke and Guy's friendship, and Cheryl pretty much nulified most of it.

Speaking of Luke, I struggled with him from page one. Luke is not a nice person. If he's not bullying kids at school, he's waking up early so that he can shoot birds and foxes in his garden or torturing insects. Seriously, this kids is "serial killer in the making" material. It's a refreshing change to see a YA protagonist who's more than a token bad boy, but to be honest, he was such a little bastard in the early chapters it was hard to care about the character. His parents seemed so lovely too, it was hard to see where all that rage and vitriol came from. As Luke's bullying victim/charity case/eventual friend come spirit guide, Guy is an interesting character. Which makes it a shame that he's MIA for big chunks at a time.

The mix of magic and reality was well done, but felt a bit hurried in places, as did Luke's transformation from nasty, if somewhat misguided, schoolboy to nature embodied. He seemed to accept Guy's shapeshifting (including at one point, in another "are they, aren't they?" moment, to being quite literally inside Luke) too easily and didn't make as much as you'd think about flying through the air in the dead of night.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Pica, it just felt a little bit messy in places and it's a shame that there were some elements of the story that weren't expanded to their full potential.

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