Book Review: Stones by Polly Johnson

Author: Polly Johnson
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary | Coming Of Age
Released: December 9th 2013
Review Source: Harper Collins UK | Netgalley

Coo is trying to cope with the hand that life has dealt her. At sixteen, she feels she’s too young to have lost her older brother, Sam, to alcoholism. She’s skipping school to avoid the sympathy and questions of her friends and teachers, and shunning her parents, angry that they failed to protect her, and desperate to avoid having to face the fact that, towards the end, she began to wish Sam would leave forever – even die. Then, one day, truanting by the Brighton seafront, Coo meets Banks, a homeless alcoholic and she’s surprised to discover that it is possible for her life to get more complicated.Despite warnings from her friends and family, Coo and Banks develop an unlikely friendship. Brought together through a series of unexpected events, strange midnight feasts, a near drowning and the unravelling of secrets, together they seek their chance for redemption. That is, until Coo’s feelings start getting dangerously out of hand.

I put off reading Stones for a while. A few months, actually.  Not because it didn’t sound good, not because I didn’t want to read it, but because I wasn’t sure if I could handle such a sad sounding story. I regret postponing reading it because it was an enjoyable novel, for lack of a better word.

It was a gritty, realistic look on grief and how alcoholism can destroy a person’s life. Stones wasn’t a happy story, nor is it something I’d usually go for but I picked it up anyway. I'm glad I did. It's sad and deals with heavy situations, far from a light novel, but I don't regret reading it. Stones shows alcoholism from two different angles, both stark in differences, but both ugly. This isn't a fast paced novel, but takes us deep into Coo's life, at her worst, and on her way to her best.

The author did a fantastic job of potrying Coo (Corinne). I felt her desperation and lonliness. In her mind she's invisible to everyone, especially to her parents who are still heavily wrapped in in the death of their son, and I felt like everything she was going through was real.

Stones isn’t your typical book. Coo is grieving. It’s been nearly a year since her brother died, heart problems charged by his alcohol and substance abuse, but is it bad that she doesn’t miss him? Towards the end the alcohol made Sam angry, violent, and she doesn’t miss him because of the fists he raised to his own family. Worse yet, her parents have yet to really acknowledge her since Sam’s death. And that’s how she begins an unlikely friendship with Banks, a homeless alcoholic.

The friendship between Banks and Coo is a very unlikely one. She’s a sixteen-year-old girl who’s still dealing with the loss of her brother and he’s a thirty-something-year-old homeless alcoholic. They’re not two people you’d put together for a friendship, especially since it was alcoholism which drove her brother to being the brute he became. But it was the Coo/Banks scenes which I enjoyed most. Banks wasn’t just a tramp; he was an insightful man who wanted Coo to avoid the mistakes he made.

There are a lot of broken characters in Stones. There are double the amount of characters with issues and problems than there are without. I don’t think I’ve read a story before where the majority of characters, main or secondary, are broken.

Taking everything into account, I would recommend this novel. This may not be your cup of tea but at least give it ago. A novel out of your comfort zone now and then can end up being a favourite.

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