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The International Writers Magazine: Young Fiction:

Everything I Know About You by Belinda Hollyer
Orchard Books
ISBN 978-1-84616-766-9
Samuel James Richards

When confronted with a book whose cover is adorned with a sparkling array of butterflies, hearts and flowers, your first reaction would generally be that this is definitely a book targeted at adolescent girls, which you would be correct in assuming. Your first reaction is unlikely to be that this book will contain a deep contemplation of how death can affect a young person and how said individual deals with having to grow up a lot quicker than usual to cope with life. This is, however, what Belinda Hollyer achieves in her book Everything I Know About You, showing that, as the saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

From the first page we dive into the world of a young girl called Lizzie who lives in London with her father and her younger brother Eric. We hear how her life has reached a comfortable equilibrium after the trauma of losing her mother a few years before the story begins. But when her imaginative brother claims he’s seen their mum working at the National History Museum Lizzie begins to question all the things that helped her make sense of life and has to find an answer to the mystery.

Belinda Hollyer’s honest and open style of writing is a key reason why this book is a pleasure to read, regardless of the age or gender of the reader. Hollyer allows the reader to see her personality in the text, revelling in sharing her love of poetry and her experience’s of Regents Park through the thoughts of her protagonist. She writes the voice of a young girl realistically and confidently, without embarrassing herself by trying to be ‘hip’, showing herself to be superbly adept at writing for her chosen genre.

The themes and issues confronted within Everything I Know About You are deep and complex, but this is another one of the book’s assets. The target audience don’t want to "wait until they’re older" to understand and identify with the struggles Lizzie faces in being a surrogate mother to her younger brother, her fear of accepting new people into her life and the possibility of facing loss again. Hollyer treats her readers with respect, allowing them to become immersed in her story and enjoy it to the full.

The only qualm that Hollyer’s book may induce is that Lizzie’s narrative voice can be seen as slightly too mature for a girl of her age, and that a third-person narrator could convey the story more realistically. However this point can be quickly swept aside with the understanding that Lizzie is more mature than the average girl of her age because of her life experiences. Also the use of first-person narration makes the story that much more personal, something Hollyer obviously delights in.

Everything I Know About You is a brave and intriguing story that will challenge younger and older readers alike. Behind the flowers and the fairies that the exterior of the book is wrapped up in, there is a deep and touching narrative hidden beneath, which both adults and children will find hard not to enjoy.

© Sam Richards October 2008
shl60123 at

Sam is studying Creative Writing at the Univerisyt of Portsmouth

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