Flying Elephant Media
Susanne Gervay is no stranger to tackling difficult topics in her books and this one, is possibly one of the trickiest to navigate and pull off successfully, with the utmost sensitivity and awareness for the audience. The topic of consent, consensual relationships, toxic masculinity and the explosion of the #MeToo movement in the past few years validates the need for such books to put in the hands of our young people as educators, and indeed as citizens. One has only to read the plethora media reports of the unceasing incidences of these behaviours to know this truth.
Sam is 17, a caring and compassionate young man, who has been raised by his single mum and his grandfather. His finely tuned moral compass and the example of wholesome male role models, he owes to his grandpa for whom he is grieving. The loss of his grandpa has really affected him and even without that, the upcoming school ‘camp’ feels him with dread.
Not so much a camp as an eight-day ordeal, forced to endure with boys he considers to be almost savages, particularly after recently witnessing a sexual assault on a teen girl at a recent rave party. Sam knows the boys involved but has no idea how to handle his knowledge and, for sure, feels he can’t do anything while trapped in close quarters with some of these young thugs.
Throughout the arduous trekking with its abseiling, extremes of temperature, deprivations, bullying and intense physical challenges, Sam does his best to sort through his responses to both the assault, his own feelings about his girlfriend and the loss of his grandfather. Calling upon her son’s input to create as authentic a character, voice and situations as possible, Susanne’s novel is both intense and gripping. Sam’s dilemma and the dread of other boys when faced with the violence of the bullies is palpable and disturbing, creating within the reader a visceral reaction which leads to a righteous indignation and the need for justice.
It’s not a long novel but it is potent and, in my opinion, should be compulsory reading for secondary students both boys and girls [for heaven’s sake English teachers, can you start ditching some of those fossilised ‘classics’ especially the ones with now inappropriate terminology that you have to keep bleeping out!].
I am certainly giving it my highest recommendation and urge you to put it on your shelves, sell it to your admin if not as an English novel then reading for whatever your school calls it personal development sessions. Thank you Susanne for your determination to bring this to the forefront of teen consciousness.