Over the summer I will be reading loads of teen fiction and hope to share with you my thoughts on the books. First up is Keith Gray's Ostrich Boys. Originally published in 2008 the book was shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award and the Carnegie Award and also shortlisted for the Teenage Book of the Year Award.
Kenny, Sim and Blake kidnap their best friend Ross, this is easily done as Ross is dead. Killed whilst riding his bike, Ross' three friends are angry and hurt at what they see as the hypocrisy of his funeral, particularly as the people organising and speaking at the service had been giving their friend a difficult time in the weeks before his death. Believing Ross would have been disappointed in his memorial service they decide that a more fitting memorial would be to take their friend the place that he always wanted to go, they are going to take Ross to Ross ( in Southern Scotland). Having stolen his ashes the boys set out on a road trip that is by turns hilarious and tortuous but underlying this is a serious theme, the friends discover that there is a suggestion that Ross deliberately ran his bike into the path of the car that killed him.
As the boy's journey towards Ross they begin to discover that their friendship is based on shifting sands and the truth about Ross' death is more complicated than they thought. It gradually emerges that there are other, darker, emotions and motivations within the group of travelling friends. Grief, loss and guilt are played out within the group as their disastrous journey draws to a close with increasing, page turning, tension.
For a book that deals with a serious subject Gray has written a humorous and engaging story that is one of hope and an affirmation of the unexpectedness of the journey that life is. There is no sex, no obvious violence and only a little swearing in the book. Age recommendations I have seen vary between 11 and 14, probably due to the themes of teen suicide and the devastation that such an act leaves in it's wake which are explored in the book. I would say the book is suitable for 12+, those in second level education, although younger readers (particularly competent 9+ readers ) would be able to read the story, the issue is one of comprehension and understanding of the themes Gray is exploring as opposed to reading competency. You can read an interview with Keith Gray about the book here: