Have you ever had one of those days where one after another your dominoes fall? You can’t seem to stop the collision of a bunch of terrible things happening?
When you open up, who will you let in?
When Alex Morris loses her fiancé in dreadful circumstances, she moves from London to Edinburgh to make a break with the past. Alex takes a job at a Pupil Referral Unit, which accepts the students excluded from other schools in the city. These are troubled, difficult kids and Alex is terrified of what she’s taken on.
There is one class – a group of five teenagers – who intimidate Alex and every other teacher on The Unit. But with the help of the Greek tragedies she teaches, Alex gradually develops a rapport with them. Finding them enthralled by tales of cruel fate and bloody revenge, she even begins to worry that they are taking her lessons to heart, and that a whole new tragedy is being performed, right in front of her…(Goodreads)
I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads, but I’d really say it’s 3.5. Once again, I wish I could give half stars on Goodreads! Come on Goodreads, give your people what they want!
Anyway, back to the review.
Our main character, Alex, never wanted to be a teacher. She is an up and coming stage play director with her entire life ahead of her if only she could see just that. She’s blinded by the loss of her fiance. He’s been plucked from life at too early an age leaving Alex’s world spinning. To help get her feet on the ground and old mentor of hers has given her a temp job as a therapeutic drama teacher in his alternative school.
These kids are rough. They’ve been kicked out of their own public schools for causing fights and general disturbances. These kids come to class when they want to and leave when they want to. They’re snarky, angry, and wounded. Dark humor and sarcasm are the shields these students use to deflect any shortcomings in their schooling or own person.
Alex has the job of ‘getting through’ to these kids.
How do you use drama to get through to a bunch of hateful teenagers? Introduce them to tragic plays full of violence and anguish. But do these plays mirror their own lives a little too closely? And is it a too late to reach her students? These are questions Alex fails to ask.
I liked this book, but I don’t know if that’s because I am biased.
As an English Teacher I quickly picked up on some major mistakes Alex made on her first few days at The Unit. Her first encounters with the students were painful and hilarious as I recalled several of my own experiences in tutoring and student teaching. Of course, her job is a little different. She didn’t have to teach them the literary elements of a play. This was supposed to be therapy. Her heart aching attempts to relate and interest the students to the plays had me nodding in sympathy. I know what it’s like to be passionate about a topic and have a room full of teenagers stare at you as if you said you love drinking cough syrup.
The students were, by far, my favorite part of this novel. They intrigued me more than the main character partly due to the fact that they simply had more going on. Alex is mourning and as such she is…dull. I feel bad about saying that even about a character in a book. But the students are full of piss and vinegar. There is a lot more going on among them than Alex suspects.
You have the mean girl, Carly.
There’s the quietly astute Melody. I liked her because of how expertly Haynes wrote a deaf person.
Jono is a big bully, but he’s really just a big baby.
Ricky will steal your heart.
And Annika just needs a hug, but hugging her is like hugging a porcupine. Get close at your own risk.
The story is told in two perspectives. Alex starts us off from the beginning, the present day. Then, she goes into the past and explains how she first got the job. But she’s not just telling us this story. She’s telling lawyers. Right from the start we find out that something terrible has come from her first year at the Unit. Alex is always telling the story from the present, but she’s either telling you what is going on right now or what had happened.
Then, there’s another narrator, an unexpected surprise. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that this perspective starts out as endearing then because startlingly unsettling as you consider the source.
The hint of a tragic event, the interactions with the students, the present day meetings with lawyers, and Alex’s deep sadness build the reader up to the point that I was squealing, ‘O my gosh, will someone just say what happened?!’
With that said, I didn’t see the end coming. I did find it a bit anticlimactic, however. I wish there was a little more in depth build up of the character that made the thing happen. It felt a little too subtle. But I liked how it was executed.
This is Natalie Haynes first book and I must say that I can’t wait to read any future works of hers.
The Amber Fury is available in the UK, but won’t be released here in the States until August. I received this book through a giveaway.
The U.S. release will be called The Furies, which I actually really hate.
The title of this book actually has a great deal of importance. It ties everything up at the end. When I finished the book and looked at the title I had this huge, gratifying ‘aha’ moment. The Furies does not make sense. It loses that ‘aha’ moment. And then, there’s the U.S. cover of the book. UGLY UGLY UGLY! It’s on the right hand side, here. Now look back at the cover from the top of this post! Beautiful! And the U.S. cover- UGLY!
Sorry. Rant. Anywho, enjoyed the book and look forward to more from this author.
Check out The Amber Fury by clicking on any of the two pictures.
Check out Natalie Haynes: Here