* Prices may differ from that shown
Eleven-Year-old Skip is a street kid, after being neglected by his Dad and several foster homes he took his chances and ran away. It's here he befriends an old homeless man, Billy who with the best of his ability takes Skip under his wing and despite their hardships a routine is formed. That is until the bombs start falling and to survive, Skip and Billy must leave the city streets finding refuge in an abandoned theme park. On their journey they pick up three other lost souls, five year old Max and Tia, a ballerina and single mother to a tiny baby girl. But what chance do any of them have when ordinary life was so tough for them? The fight for survival is on.
A Small Free Kiss In The Dark may be a small book at just over 200 pages but packs a mighty punch. Set in a post-apocalyptic Australia, through it's main characters it tells a raw and brutal story of humanity, survival and family.
Right from the beginning this is a story and cast of characters that will get right under your skin. The relationship between Skip and Billy is touching without being overly sentimental and both are so well drawn and believable it's impossible not to become involved with their story. It's the same with every character introduced in this book. They are so vividly real and their situations, both pre and post bombing, so absolutely human they leap from the page.
The setting of this book is a fascinating and clever concept. The contrast between the original purpose of the Theme Park, built for fun and frivolity, and the base for survival it now becomes is stark and shocking. I've often thought an empty Fun Fair would be strange and eerie, and Glenda Millard fully captures this atmosphere in her descriptions.
What stands out most in this book though is the nature of the human spirit. We see both the bad, through the violent atrocities of the unknown enemy and those whose survival instinct is to look out for themselves, and the good. For the four misfits in this book, the best is brought out in them as they band together. For the first time in their lives they are a unit, a family. No longer ostracised from society, their strength comes in their ability to care for each other. It's ironic that now we see the true potential of those previously written off, ignored and abandoned during peacetime.
A Small Free Kiss In The Dark is both sad and hopeful in equal measures. I found it an emotional and thought provoking book, beautifully written in Skip's young voice which is captured with startling authenticity. While at times violent and shocking, it will appeal to mature younger readers of aged Eleven up to adults who will appreciate the complexities of human nature woven between it's pages. If I had one complaint it could be that the book could have been a little longer and I'd have liked to know more about who the Enemy actually was and why this war was happening. One complaint aside, this is certainly a book I'd recommend highly.
Published by Templar May 2011
Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.