Welcome to the Panel (sounds mysterious and Hunger Gamesy, bear with); where young readers are presented with the opportunity to give their opinions on books they’ve read and loved, and share them with the world. Every few months a free book is selected for each member, and their thoughts on it are published here. If you’re below 19 and live nearby, or visit Scarthin Books in Cromford regularly, and are interested in joining, please visit in store and email youngfictionreviewpanel@with your details and a review of a book you’ve read recently and you could be amongst the wonderful reviews we have on show. *witty goodbye pun involving books*
Click below to read the Panel’s reviews:
OUR LATEST REVIEW PUBLISHED 20th FEBRUARY 2017:
What is the point of a story? Is it simply to provide an enjoyable diversion to while away a few hours? Perhaps to expand our minds and teach us to see the world differently? Maybe to serve as a call to action regarding a social or political issue? Well, one thing’s for certain. If the point of a story is to give us relief from the pressures of life and hope for a better future, this book completely misses it. You would have to look long and hard to find a book more bleak, miserable and disturbing than The Alex Crow.
Before I go into further detail regarding my feelings surrounding the book, I’d best give you an overview of the plot. The Alex Crow centres around an orphaned refugee named Ariel, who is sent to a nightmarish summer camp by his foster parents in the USA. The story also jumps to interlinked subplots concerning Ariel’s experiences before being taken to the USA, an ancient Arctic expedition and a mentally ill man’s attempts to detonate a bomb. The different storylines are, to the book’s credit, interweaved with considerable skill, and The Alex Crow stands out as a good example of how to handle such a narrative.
Unfortunately, it’s about the only thing the book stands out as a good example of, thanks to the overwhelming tone of nihilism that pervades it. Now, to make things clear, I have no problem with stories that explore darker themes and territories. I would go so far to say that some of them are personal favourites. But there is such a thing as crossing a line, and this book is about a hundred miles on the wrong side of it. The vast majority of the characters are cruel, insensitive creatures you would pay good money to never have to meet. Ariel, the only truly positive character, seems to play the role of a misery-magnet, who exists solely to be subjected to a sadistic series of horrific events, in order to see how much the reader can endure before putting down the book in disgust. Based on the sample of humanity shown by this book, our immediate extinction would probably do the universe a favour. The grim tale also features a ridiculous and unrealistic amount of swearing, and I’m not talking about a few curses here and there for the sake of realism, I’m talking about “let’s put an F-bomb on every other page ‘cause we’re so edgy.”
Overall, The Alex Crow is a clear failure thanks to its inability to distinguish cynicism from sophistication. If you’re looking for books that explore darker themes without venturing into sadistic nihilism, I would strongly recommend Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy or A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.