Sunday, July 13, 2008

Careless by Anne Cassidy


As Chloe Cozens mourns the death of her mother, Lesley, teenage 'delinquent' Nicky Nelson experiences quite a different emotion towards her, his social worker, the one person he thought he could rely on when everyone else had let him down. Lesley Cozens wrote Nicky a letter before she died, the contents of which the reader does not know until much later in the novel, but the letter triggers a rage in Nicky that could have had tragic consequences if Chloe had not got involved. When Nicky begins hanging around Chloe's house with a mixture of curiosity and anger that she has had a happy life compared with his, he is prepared to hate her, but instead the two of them form a strange kind of bond. Chloe is her mother's daughter, and finds herself wanting to help Nicky find his real mother, the one who abandoned him at birth. Ironically, the clues she pieces together about what happened lead her back to her mother's home town, and to her childhood friend, Sonia, who is keeping a painful secret of her own. She is Nicky's mother. Chloe finds comfort in helping Nicky, a boy who is almost like a brother in that her own mother looked out for him for so long, and Nicky discovers that sometimes you have to trust in people in order to move on and build a life...

Careless is powerful story written by Anne Cassidy, a Carnegie shortlisted author who reveals an affinity for writing expressively about modern day teenagers and situations that have even adults reeling.

Careless deals with the subjects of loss and trust and how one single act can change a person's life beyond measure.

I found the book to be beautifully written but struggled to like the damaged character Nicky at first. His actions really disturbed me quite a bit, which is probably why the author spent time in creating him in such detail.

He is indeed a very troubled teenager and some of the things he did really did worry me - there were signs of obsession and destructive behaviour and acts of pure spite on his behalf.

Chloe, like Nicky, was well thought out and the perfect foil for his scary behaviour. Her grief at the death of her mother is quite touching and real. She meets Nicky when she collects her mother's goods at the Home he stays in. He helps her and they chat a bit. An awkward half-friendship is formed. If I were honest, I would have run a mile if I had been Chloe as she met Nicky, but she is clearly made of stronger stuff than me and she displays her mother's good hearted intentions and it shows in her empathy to Nicky.

Their relationship is a dysfunctional one, one that ends before it even starts. He is ready to hate Chloe from the word "go" but fails to do so because he senses her innate goodness. This startles him and he becomes fixated on her for a while.

The book isn't saccharine and the characters are raw - and this is where the strength of the book lies.

I would have liked for the book to go on a bit more, to find out how Nicky's meeting goes right at the very end, but I suppose the author left the characters at the right spot, leaving you to complete the story.

Careless is a novel written with skill and understanding by an author who clearly appreciates the wild and contradictory nature of teenage emotions. It left me reflecting on how choices, even ones with the best of intentions, could change someone's world.

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