No Use Crying by Zannah Kearns
Themes: Family; multiculturalism; teenagers; friendship; inner-city.
Synopsis: Set in Tooting, London, No Use Crying follows the life of 14-year old Niki, the daughter of a single, teenage mum. The story opens when Niki and her mother move from a sheltered, middle-class village near Bath, to a multicultural, working class community in Tooting.
Whilst Niki endures the unforgiving initiation to her new school, she also discovers the life-changing truth about her father. An emotional roller-coaster follows, which although painful, ultimately leads to healing.
My thoughts: No Use Crying is Zannah Kearn’s debut novel – gritty, moving and thought-provoking. Despite being Zannah’s first published novel, it is written with the insight and craft of an established and experienced author. I was drawn in by the first page and was gripped for the next 24 hours (admittedly I was flying from the UK to Australia so was spoilt for time).
There is no unnecessary preamble to the story. Instead, the story shows just enough of Nikki’s safe and secure life in Bath in order for the stark contrast with Tooting to be made. Zannah compares the two polar-opposite worlds of inner-city London and middle-class Bath, with vivid clarity. She depicts the raw, tough world of life in a London comp with convincing insight.
On the back page of the book, I learnt that Zannah has spent much of her professional life working with teenagers in UK inner cities. I can’t help but assume these experiences have helped shape and mould No Use Crying, giving Zannah’s writing its subtle but genuine authority.
Whilst written in the third person, the story is very much written from Nikki’s point of view. Zannah enables the reader to step into Nikki’s shoes completely. I felt as though I was riding the emotional roller coaster with Nikki as she struggled to fit in with the new crowd, gradually changing her appearance and the way she speaks.
Nikki soon begins to make friends in her new school, yet even her friendships are fraught with complications and divided loyalties. Nikki finds herself torn between Chantelle, a dominating ring-leader, and the quiet and timid Sangeeta who is definitely not part of the in-crowd. The dynamics between these friends form an important sub-plot that supports the greater story of Nikki discovering the truth about her father.
Whilst this novel looks at messy lives damaged by drugs, insecurities and dishonesty a strong theme of redemption surfaces towards the end of the story – redemption that comes through honesty and friendship. Zannah manages to weave this message of hope into the book without allowing it to have a saccharine ‘happily-every-after’ feel to it.
Perhaps this is what made me such a fan of No Use Crying – the skilful weaving together of such contrasting threads: gritty, inner-city London; the turmoil of adolescence; and the tenderness of family love and friendship.
No Use Crying is a fantastic, thought-provoking book which I would highly recommend to all teenagers.
This review is also posted at: http://mostlyreadingya.blogspot.com/