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Word Count: 615
High anxiety Up On Cloud Nine Anne Fine 172pp Doubleday 1099 Stolly the unusual hero of Anne Fines latest childrens novel lives outside the rules Precocious doesnt really describe him hes different yes but not in that nerdy way that gets kids bullied Its as if his friend Ian observes he doesnt even notice that some people are older or stiffer or more important So Stolly asks head teachers if they want to swap yoghurts and fixes raffles so that the poor kids win In fact he does all sorts of odd brave things that no one else would get away with Maddeningly imaginative disarmingly clever he dishes out heartfelt lectures to anyone who crosses his path Stollys inattentive father is the cleverest barrister in England and his battily egocentric mother is the sort of woman who would fetch out her hairspray in a ward of asthmatics Neither pays him much attention mainly because they know that Ians much cuddlier mum and dad will always pick up the pieces But can they this time Because now finally Stollys in a lot of trouble lying unconscious in hospital having fallen - or thrown himself - from a top-floor window No one knows how or why but lets just say that its not his first accident His AE file could fell an ox As Stolly lies there Ian writes the story of his friends life This is a strange dark slippery beast of a book Fine is always good on dysfunctional families and the creeping indecipherable damage they do And although this is surely a novel about love friendship and belonging its also about a boy who pushes life beyond normal limits and dangerously so For Stolly it turns out often talks about suicide He complains of sometimes feeling not there or else having a tremendous feeling that something electric is about to happen All perfectly credible but tough stuff for kids The message
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