The International Writers Magazine
:Young Adult Books: Review

Damage by Sue Mayfield
Paperback 192 pages (January 5, 2006)
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
ISBN: 0340893257

A Lucy Bailey Review

‘A harrowing tale of love and loss and scars that are more than skin- deep’. So achingly accurate is this description of the wonderful novel that is ‘Damage’, that I am tempted to sit down and read the whole book again.

The novel tells the story of four friends; Becci, Matt, Sophie and Nathan, who are involved in a fatal car crash on the way home from a party. It is written from the point of view of eleven (yes eleven) narrators, and charts how these characters deal with the conflicting emotions which they are experiencing in the aftermath of the accident.

The characters within the novel are wonderfully written, each a distinct individual, each with their own values and opinions. It makes a refreshing change for an author to bring some reality into a book aimed at children, even if it is not what the reader wants to hear. For instance, when questioned about his dead brother Nathan, Jack says; ‘It was bad enough when he was alive…….I didn’t cry at the funeral, not bloody likely’. These characters are honest, sometimes painfully so, whether you like it or not.

On her website, Mayfield suggests that the reason she wrote ‘Damage’, was, in part, due to the number of roadside bouquets which she had seen. ‘Every one of them tells a story. Each person commemorated is someone’s child or parent, someone’s brother or sister, someone’s friend’. ‘Damage’ delves deeply into this idea, probing the characters and coming up with a mixed bag of emotions, ranging from the obvious; grief, anger and hatred, to the unexpected; jealousy, forgiveness and hope.

I would be lying if I said that this book was a comfortable read. It is thought provoking, certainly, but in no way is it easy. At times it is harrowing, particularly the vivid description of the crash and its bloody aftermath which shocked even me. This begs the question; what effect would it have on the young adults who it is aimed at? I would suggest a very positive one.

This novel is not just a depressing representation of the hurt which a tragedy causes to those involved and their families, it is a thoughtful, beautiful account of how grief can tear people apart and put them back together again. It is hopeful, something which is so important in a novel like this, and I feel that there is a lesson to be learnt by everyone that reads it, whether it involves learning to forgive, excepting the past, admitting that accidents can happen to anyone or simply resolving to drive more carefully and cherish your loved ones.

Damage’ certainly made me sit back and reassess life, an amazing feat for a children’s novel to accomplish, and I would recommend it to everyone, young and old. It is essentially a warning that life really is fragile, and that you should never, not for one moment, take for granted how much your loved ones really mean to you, because one day they might be taken away and then it will be too late.
© Lucy Bailey Feb 2006
innocenteyes_1986 at

Lucy Bailey is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

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