Books, Culture, Feminism, Representation, Social Issues

Finally, a Geordie YA novel! – Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. by Malcolm Duffy

Featured image: A white banner with the title in bold black lettering. On the left ‘Me Mam.’ is highlighted pink and ‘Me Dad.’ is highlighted orange. On the right is ‘Me.’ with M highlighted in pink and E in orange. The author’s name is in cursive font above the word Me.

CN: Domestic violence.

Thanks to Head of Zeus and NetGalley for the review copy.

It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that what attracted me to this debut novel was the title. As soon as I saw the words ‘Me Mam,’ my North East radar went off like mad. When I investigated further and I saw that it was a Y A book with a serious subject set between Gateshead and Edinburgh, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up!

14-year-old Danny lives with his mam Kim in a council flat in Gateshead. It’s always been just the two of them and that’s always been canny. Then Kim gets a new boyfriend Callum and everything changes. It’s all good for a while. Everyone gets along and Callum is always treating Danny with a wad of cash here and there. Then things start to get ugly. Danny realises that Callum is abusing his mam and doesn’t know what to do. After a bit of googling he discovers that 2 women are killed by their partners every week. He is mortified and knows he has to do something. He tries to show his mam and convince her to leave Callum but he is astounded when she is not interested; she won’t even look. That’s when Danny knows he has to find another way to solve the problem. What happens next will change his life.

The first thing I want to say is how unbelievably amazing it is to have a protagonist from the North East. Being able to hear Danny’s speech patterns and dialect as very similar to my own was incredible. It’s something that I haven’t experienced before. On top of that it was a joy not to have to imagine many of the places in the book. I’m from Durham and I live in Edinburgh so knowing where most of the places are, made me feel really connected to Danny. It felt very familiar and warm and much easier to read than usual. To see myself and the places I know and love reflected in a Y A novel made me feel happy and appreciated beyond measure.

I warmed to Danny’s character immediately. He’s a typical 14-year-old Gateshead lad and I think he has the perfect balance of naivety and maturity. You can tell how desperate he is to help his mam and it is frustrating when you’re willing him to do one thing and he does another, but he never loses that likability and I was absolutely rooting for him all the way through.

The violent and emotional scenes are hard to read but I think this vital topic is dealt with sensitively. It hammers home that 2 women a week statistic and shows how hidden the problem can be when those involved don’t know how to deal with the situation or are too afraid to speak out. I would recommend that anyone, but particularly teenage boys, read it to get a hard-hitting but accessible insight into the issue.

My only small negatives are that the pace does slow down in the middle slightly and a few parts felt unbelievable, but that was mostly to do with how the teachers at Danny’s school interact with him and I suspect it’s because my school probably had very different behaviour intervention policies than a lot of schools in the region, so those bits didn’t reflect my experience!

Overall though the pace is great and the plot doesn’t go the way I was expecting at all, so that was a shock but it was a welcome one! When I finished the book I found myself genuinely moved, in a good way.

This is a fantastically original debut novel with a big heart that gives much needed space to a hugely important issue from a new perspective. Whether you’re a North Easterner that needs a reminder of home, you want to educate yourself about domestic abuse or you just want something a bit different, I would highly recommend Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. as your next read.

9.5 out of 10

Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. is out now.

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