I absolutely adored Laura Jarratt’s debut YA Skin Deep last year, so when an unexpected copy of By Any Other Name came through my postbox, I practically squealed with joy.
Holly has only been Holly for a few months. After witnessing a crime, she along with her family are in witness protection and starting over in a small town in England. However being a teenager who has to start a whole new identity and lie low is incredibly difficult and after reaching out to an old friend, she has to accept she may have placed her whole family in danger.
A lot of sensitive topics are dealt with in this book; Holly’s sister, Katie, is autistic and encounters prejudice as well as really not understanding what is happening. Holly is struggling with her identity. When you’re fifteen your sense of identity is so important and you’re still working out what that exactly is, so to be told to leave everything and everyone behind would be horrible. As you would expect Holly really struggles with this and I found it really interesting to read how she started off planning to blend in the middle and not stand out, before thinking ‘stuff this’ and infiltrating the popular crowds. The change from a city to a rural area was also a factor that was explored well as Holly struggles with the different ways to pass the time and pace of life. I really liked though that the majority of the action took place in the small town or a coastal holiday village as
I really loved Emo Boy, or Joe as he’s really called, and his development throughout the book. I think he was an excellent example of not prejudging people and the way we can particular can be very superficial at times with regards to appearance. His relationship with Holly was brilliant and just reminds me that Jarratt has a real talent for bringing the development of teenage relationships to life in a way that is never patronising and feels very true.
Jarratt’s writing is just as beautiful and intense as Skin Deep and I love the complexities and humanity she shows in her work. Her characters are flawed, human and yet completely relatable. I really felt for Holly and her family throughout the book and was desperate for everything to work out for them.
The mystery of what exactly Holly saw was interspersed throughout the novel through flashbacks and while I found them interesting and they did add to the plot, I’m not if I liked the way they broke up some chapters personally. Craft wise, I could understand the choice, however, when we first get the flashbacks of the build up, I wasn’t sure if they felt truly necessary or could have been conveyed in some other way. This however is just my personal preference and flashbacks as a whole are hard to use in a novel well, which for the majority of the novel Jarratt does very well.
By Any Other Name is a great book filled with drama, relatable and compelling characters and an intriguing mystery and suspense at its backbone. A definite recommendation from me! I received a free review copy from Egmont/ Electric Monkey for my honest reviewing purposes. By Any Other Name is available to buy now.