Boys Don’t Cry – Fiona Scarlett

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Chosen by Jodie

Two brothers in a Dublin tower block battle illness, crime and poverty

❝ Joe is 17, a gifted artist and older brother to 12-year-old Finn. They live with their Ma and Da in a Dublin tower block dealing with all the markers of an underprivileged Irish childhood. However poverty is only one of the predicaments the brothers face in this YA novel.

Their father works for a local gang leader and sometimes brings the violence home to his family. The lure of crime both disgusts and temps his older son.

Then Finn receives a shock diagnosis, testing the family’s ability to cope. Joe is Finn’s rock and struggles to work out how he will support Finn without becoming what many expect him to become. it is fitting that both Joe and Finn are provided a narration duality offering the stories of innocence and injustice and well as those of protection and needs must.

It’s always worse in the dark. The shadows. The echoing noises of misery. The smells smothering you from all angles. The fear of not knowing what you’re going to meet on the stairwell. 

❝ I found myself fully immersed in this debut novel by Fiona Scarlett. The dual narrative was a short read that showed us the true spirit of brotherly love. Joe, the older brother, struggled with his own ethics and young Finn struggled coming to terms with his impending mortality. The novel about sibling love, illness, grief and toxic masculinity had the voice of real people which was probably a result of Fiona Scarlett’s experience as a teacher and her extensive research of gang crimes in Dublin. An emotional read that will have you captivated and probably make you shed some tears too! – Jodie

❝ The author successfully conveyed the setting of this novel and her description of the Dublin tower block was evocative and compelling. I also enjoyed following Joe’s story and his ups and downs. Drawbacks for me were the unconvincing characterisation of 12-year-old Finn who felt more like he should have been 7 or 8 years old. I think 12-year-olds are actually pretty savvy. Also there was a massive leap towards the end of the book that made me wonder whether a few pages had been left out from my copy. I am happy to accept though that this is more a reflection on me than the author! – Suzy

Boys Don’t Cry deals with tough subject matters and does so in a raw and emotional manner, with gritty, realistic characters. This book captured me from the start. I even cried at the end, even though it had already been revealed what was going to happen to one particularly character. My only bug bear was in the characterisation of Finn. He seemed somewhat inauthentic with a naivety that didn’t ring true to me considering the environment of fear and poverty that he was growing up in. But overall it was a heartfelt story that I really enjoyed. – Jo

❝ There are certain attributes that appeal to a YA audience and I think Boys Don’t Cry hits the mark with its focuses: a troubled teen, a path to redemption vs the wrong side of the tracks, strong familial ties and a loss to emphasise that it’s okay to express emotion. The expected inevitability, of Finn’s illness and Joe’s future, highlights prejudice and class divides that many live with every day, but it is offset by a glimmer of hope as a promise of what can eventuate with support and good role models. It is an emotional book to read, whatever your age, and packs a lot of punch into a minimum of words. – Rachel

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Published 2021
Faber Faber
256 pages

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