Friday, June 10, 2011
Right at the start, you sense the world in which Harri has landed as he describes a murder scene on the high street of his London neighbourhood. A concrete jungle, Harri and his family live in a "housing estate" where even at his young age Harri is keenly aware of the hierarchy and boundaries of his neighbourhood. Harri and his friend embark on a detective adventure to find the killer unwittingly getting entangled with the local gang.
In so many ways, Harri is just a regular 11 year old kid. He is the second fastest runner in his class, he wants his "trainers" to be better than his friends, he wants adventure, he wants to play with his friends and above all he loves his family. He is also missing his father, grandmother and baby sister who are still in Ghana. Harri's imagination is brilliant as he "befriends" a pigeon on his balcony and believes the bird is a guardian.
Through the innocence of Harri's voice which is sprinkled with both Ghanian and English slang, you also see the challenges of his surroundings: gangs, poverty, violence, addiction, abuse. He is courted by the local gang and while his sense of survival prompts him to attempt the challenges put forth, his innate sense of right and wrong prevent him from actually following through. This puts him on the wrong side of the gangs.
As a mom of three boys, one of whom just turned 13, I found Harri's voice sweet, funny and charming. The perfect balance between a little boy and the beginnings of the man that is starting to poke through. Although the prose takes a little getting used to (there's a glossary in the back) this is a lovely book, from startling beginning to the shocking conclusion. I highly recommend it for any summer reading list.