YA novel ‘WALLS’ takes an authentic look at divorce as experienced from a kid’s perspective [Book Review]

YA novel ‘WALLS’ takes an authentic look at divorce as experienced from a kid’s perspective [Book Review]

Emma Fischel's book depicts separated parents who build a physical wall to split the house into halves. How will this affect the children?

Walls
By Emma Fischel
Published by Oxford Children’s Books
ISBN 978 0 19 276382 2

When they are stressed, grown-ups sometimes do the stupidest things. This is certainly what happens with the parents of poor Ned Arkle-Smith.

Ned’s parents have decided to separate and, to save the cost of one of them moving out, they have come up with an ingenious plan – to divide their present house down the middle with a wall so that there will be a mum section on one side and a dad section on the other.

Ned and his two sisters will then live one week with Dad in one half of the house and the next week with Mum in the other half. Ivy Lodge, the home-to-be-divided, is a beautiful old house and building a wall down the middle poses no problems.

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Ned’s two sisters are willing to go along with their parents’ plan, but Ned is incensed. This stupid wall will stop him moving around Ivy Lodge as he is used to, and he hates the idea of being given a schedule to visit his own parents. What is happening? Why has his life suddenly been split in literally half?

Emma Fischel’s Walls is an intriguing read. We begin the book smiling at the ridiculous situation Ned finds himself in, but soon the tone changes and Ned becomes a rather complicated character.

The wall makes him angry, and this spills over into everything he does. It affects his relationships with his schoolmates and his two sisters. Ned develops into a not-very-likeable person: controlling, stubborn, and obsessive.

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Fischel tells the story in Ned’s voice, cleverly shifting the reader’s feelings from amusement to deep concern. Ned is not the usual likeable boy writers usually, well, write. He is
a mess, and heading for trouble unless something dramatic happens.

The awful house-wall is a brick reminder of everything that is going wrong in Ned’s life. Just as it seems that things cannot get worse for him, Fischel throws him a lifeline. Ned discovers that he has the ability to walk through walls. He doesn’t question where this magical new skill has come from – he grabs it and puts it to immediate use.

Walls is a clever mix of drama and fantasy. And at the centre of the book there is a character the like of which most readers will not have met before.

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Fischel has written a book that is full of heart, fun, and understanding. Ned’s approach to dealing with his problems is all wrong and he doesn’t have the understanding to put it right until he starts to walk though walls.

What this troubled boy finds on the other side of the walls he walks through makes for a captivating and thought-provokingly unusual story. A highly recommended read for young readers – and parents!

John Millen can be contacted on johnmillenbooks@gmai­l.com

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