Daylight Saving, published this week, is novelist Edward Hogan's first book for young adults. I was delighted to receive a copy to review. I am considerably less pleased now to have to write a review because it was so very, very good I'm going to sound like the author's mother. Do others find it hardest to review their favourite books? Anyway ...
Daniel and his father are on holiday, the worst kind of mid-teen holiday where nothing between parent and child seems to go right. Daniel is awkward and embarrassed about his father, himself, everything. His father is over-concerned about Daniel and fussing in the wrong ways. He also drinks too much. Both father and son are heartbroken over the end of the parents' marriage and neither is doing well to handle it. The October half-term break is supposed to clear the air, help them heal a little but from the start this seems unlikely. Then Daniel meets Lexi. This is no obvious teen romance but a subtler relationship where both parties gain strength and balance from the friendship. It is also a supernatural relationship. Daniel realises something terrible has happened to Lexi and it is destined to be repeated unless he can find a way to stop it.
The friendship is balanced against a superbly handled plot. As a ghost story it has plenty of tension but the overall effect, thanks to the wonderful characterisation, is delightful rather than scary. The setting of the half-term week with its definite end and the contained panic of that key hour, when the clocks go back (hence the title) keeps everything ticking briskly. This is not just the usual few hours left of the holiday friendship but something altogether more sinister. Lexi, as the victim, was a remarkably strong, clear cut, personality. She is the least victim-like of victims, and the narrative neither pities her nor makes light of what happens. She moves away from being defined by the event by seemingly changing elements and appearing to defy time itself as she swishes on her watery way.
Hogan writes terribly well about teenagers: Christopher in The Hunger Trace and the slightly younger Vincent from Blackmoor are wonderfully real creations with the charm, irritability, irrationality, insecurity and quirkiness of the complex creature that is a teenager. He is just as successful in Daylight Saving. There is nothing trite about the portrayal of Daniel and Lexi, no making light of feelings, nothing in the narrative of Hogan, the grown-up pulling the strings. Remarkably for such a book, a ghost story that relies on the power of the build-up, there is no let-down at the end. The final hour is as exciting as can be, and the personal resolutions for the characters are plausible and satisfying and I loved the last sentence of the book.
The cover of my copy has a female figure cutting through water and this sense of buoyancy, movement and purpose is on every page of the book: in the plot, in the charcterisation and finally in the resolution. Whilst remaining suitable throughout for its intended audience, it had enough of the scary stuff to keep this hardened fan of the supernatural gothic engaged too. No quibbles, Daylight Saving is just perfect for anyone from the teens up, and I'm honestly not his mother!