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The disappearance of Timothy Dawson - review

Nathan is the guy smiling on the far left as you look (in the jacket). He's pictured with staff from Lancashire libraries who run a superb award for teen readers, the long running 'Lancashire Book of the Year'. Taran Matharu, Paula Rawsthorne and past winner Sarah Mussi with the glasses complete the shot.

Life is not fun for Tommy, he's 16 and bright, but his social status is severely limited by his mum and older brother, they have real problems and he just tries to deal with whatever is thrown at him with decency and devotion to his own well being and especially that of his best friend, the feisty and wonderfully written Kirsten, she is a gem.

You really wouldn't want much of what happens in this book happening in real life, but Nathan has actually written it down, rather than up and it's a sad indication of life that even with technology and modernity that this sort of existence is common. Life is very tough, the squalor and deprivation and class divisions are rife. But, deep down it's about self belief and trying to do the right things.

Tommy is really trying, he works hard, keeps fit and healthy as best he can and has Kirsten. Their friendship and camaraderie are superb, she is resourceful and ever so supportive and their growing 'feelings' are handled beautifully.

14 years ago, Timothy disappeared, his life is kept in a cardboard box and a hidden memory of images that Tommy has never seen, his mum and brother have chosen what maybe seen as the easy option... of booze and drugs to avoid the pain and hardship, but they as you can imagine, have made things worse for Tommy. The scenes where he deals with their pitiful existence are superb and it's quite harrowing, yet totally honest just how prevalent this life is in modern Britain. We need to find ways to eradicate reliance on substances to alleviate immediate stresses.

We soon find out that there are not nice things hidden in the past, notably one called 'Smiler' who has his henchmen everywhere with their distinctive and yet subtle icon of joy, a small tattoo of allegiance. We meet all the most likely players, the bully with a rich dad in a posh car, that is all dealt with impeccably by Nathan and his stylish narration.

The mystery elements are really well done, just enough to delight the guessers and not too much to confuse those who read purely for pleasure and don't want too much hidden meaning. By that, I feel a lot of teens don't read as much as maybe in the past, but they will enjoy books like this, with reality, action, believable and honestly written. A lot of very good writers, write for an imagined self, this is written for everyone who wants a good read.

The development of characters and plot are handled superbly, you really get into the situations they are in and the surprise of finding out more is well paced and placed. The finale in the last few chapters is gripping, gruelling and emotionally charged, but fantastic.

Nathan is busy writing a second book set in Granville, it's a perfect setting for anyone wanting reality in their reading, it's not a fantasy world, it's a reality. Just with cleverly written nuances of spelling.

If you want your teens to read and enjoy books, they need more like this, I read stuff like this way back, but it was all adult stuff, maybe SE Hinton was the first I read of taking ordinary and adding a little... But it's up there with Kes and Billy Liar in keeping with style and content.
I really think Nathan will soon be seen and read after his success in making the shortlist of the Awards, I know he's looking at doing talks and events and I do hope more shortlists and such come his way.

None of them won though! Sarah Crossan did, but we also had Siobhan Curham and Fiona Shaw along so the visiting readers from at least 12 schools met 6 great authors and got many books signed.