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Thursday 31 May 2018

Home by Amanda Berriman

Oh Jesika, Jesika, Jesika. How I want to dive into the words and grab you and cuddle and kiss you. I defy anyone not to love this adorable four-and-a-half-year-old little treasure.

I couldn’t quite fathom how an adult could get into the mind of a child so young and use her voice to tell her story, but, by golly, she didn’t half do it well. You fall in love with Jesika right from the start: she has you in a vice-like grip from the beginning and within a very short time, you’re thinking, I don’t want this book to end.

Jesika lives with her mummy and baby brother Toby in a hovel of a flat: the epitome of housing rented out by a scumbag. It’s damp, it’s cold, the bath has a crack in it, so you can’t fill it too high and the boiler pilot light keeps going out. But it’s home to Jesika. She loves preschool and very much wants to be friends with Paige. Such poignant innocence and blessed naivete. It’s all very adorable so far. About a third of the way into the story, you suddenly realise there are some red flags…and you hope beyond hope it’s not all going the way you dread. But Jesika has you hopelessly smitten by now. You’re besotted with her, and all the people in her little life, whom she loves.

It’s quite an exhausting read: Jesika doesn’t speak in commas and full stops. Four-and-a-half-year-olds don't. She can speak for quite a long time without drawing breath. But don't let this fool you into thinking that the novel isn't an adult one. It is.

I saw this author on Davina McCall’s programme, This Year Next Year: Berriman’s pledge was to have her first book published twelve months after her first appearance on the programme. And she did it. Successfully, brilliantly. This is without doubt my book of 2018.

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