Siobhan Curham, Clementine and Rudy, June 2020, Walker Books Ltd., 330 pp., RRP $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781406390230
Rudy Knight, fifteen, is an urban street artist as well as a schoolgirl. She is more or less under the sway of her best friend Tyler—thin, with long hair, and usually attached to an electric guitar; he is a seventeen-year-old apprentice cook at the café where she has a part-time job. Her mother has a boyfriend who wants to move in. Clementine, fifteen, is an Instagram poet. Her mother, forty, has a second husband who is probably cheating on her. Clementine loves the poetry of Emily Dickinson. She takes photographs of street art and posts them.
Both girls live in Brighton, England. When Clementine posts Rudy’s street art with one of her poems accompanying it, it becomes inevitable that the girls will meet. They decide to collaborate on street art projects, and perhaps even change the world by drawing attention to degradation of the environment and misogynist tags.
The novel sparkles with wit and deft portraits of real relationship problems, adults who are struggling to stay afloat, and some who are breaking through to genuine moments of honesty with themselves and their teenage daughters so keen not to grow up making the usual mistakes about love, values, jobs, ambitions and prejudices.
If you’re looking for an intelligent and entertaining novel that empowers, engages with ideas, connects with a contemporary world, and proposes a connection between creativity and activism, then this is one for you. Recommended for readers from twelve to sixteen, and for readers from thirty-five to forty-five with teenage daughters.
Reviewed by Kevin Brophy