Francis Wootton is a fifteen year old poet manque and as far as he's concerned his subtle genius is wasted on his family - and pretty much everyone else in his hometown of Tyne-and-Wear. His mum's run off her feet, his dad's just run off, his older brother Chris is permanently broke, and he isn't even sure he likes his best friend Jacob. So Francis often stumbles over the obstacles of adolescence alone.
Lower Fifth is supposed to be his time, the start of an endless horizon towards whatever-comes-next. But when he is diagnosed with leukemia, that wide-open future suddenly narrows, and a whole new world of worry presents itself.
There's the notion of being held back a year at school, the threat of imminent baldness, having to locate his best shirt in case a visiting princess or pop-star fancies him for a photo-op ..... But he hadn't reckoned on meeting Amber - fierce, tough, one-of-a-kind Amber - and finding a reason to tackle it all - the good, the bad, and everything in between - head on.
In Bloom will be published by Much-in-Little; an imprint of Constable & Robinson, in hardback on 19 September 2013.
So, another novel aimed at young adults that deals with the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis - this has been done before, and there has been a lot of comparisons already between Matthew Crow's In Bloom and John Green's The Fault In Our Stars. I've not read the John Green book, but I have read other young adult novels in the past few years that have a similar subject matter. I wondered how the subject could be dealt with originally. I am still in a state of wonder! Wondering just where Matthew Crow has popped up from? I hate to admit that I'd not heard of him before now, but I am certainly going to track down his other works, if they are anywhere near as well written as In Bloom, then a treat is in store.
Being a fifteen-year-old boy is never easy, all of those raging hormones, the discovery of the opposite sex, the thought of having to leave school and find a job in the not too distant future. Having to deal with the more popular, more trendy guys at school - it's far from easy. For Francis Wootton, things seem even harder. His single mum is always busy, his dad did a bunk years ago, his grandmother has few social graces and his older brother is both skint and gay. Francis likes poetry and books, and old films. He's a thinker, not a fighter. Life is hard.
Francis has cancer, so does Amber. Francis loves Amber and hopes very much that she will love him too. That first teenage romance is hard enough for an everyday couple, but having to get to know each other and find out what is important to both of them is made so much harder when most of their relationship is carried out on the children's cancer ward - in between treatments, vomiting, losing their hair and trying to just keep living.
I love Francis Wootton, I love Amber and I love their respective families. Matthew Crow is an exceptionally talented author who has expertly created a realistic and brilliant character in Francis. This is an honest, sometimes very painful, often extremely funny and always uplifting novel that really touched my heart. Francis is a boy who is determined, yet vulnerable. His emotions and hormones are all over the place, his feelings for Amber both excite him and frighten him. He's completely under her spell.
I was completely under Matthew Crow's spell. This short novel is just perfectly brilliant and I will recommend In Bloom to all readers, young and old.
My thanks to Saskia from Constable & Robinson who kindly sent my copy for review.
Matthew Crow was born in 1987 and raised in Newcastle. Having worked as a freelance journalist since his teens he has contributed to a number of publications including the Independent on Sunday and the Observer. He has written two novels for adults. The second, My Dearest Jonah, was nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize. In Bloom is his first book for young adults.
Follow Matthew on Twitter @mizzlecrizzle
Matthew Crow has put together playlists inspired by Francis and Amber. You can listen on Spotify and even join in the playlist and add your own songs. Listen to the playlists.