Freddie Malone - a review
I'm a great believer in simply reading books you like, regardless of who the target audience is. I've read a lot of teenage fiction over the years, particularly because I like it and partly because I've been trying to read the same books as my eldest son, so we could discuss them. However, when Clive Mantle began writing his Freddie Malone series, I was in something of a quandary. My eldest was too old for them (he's not, but... teenagers!) and my youngest, at not quite 3, was far too young. My solution was to buy him each one as it came out so he had a set available when he was ready to have them read to him. I hope he will realise how lucky he is to have an autographed copy of each one (thanks Clive!). However, I didn't want to wait two years, so decided to simply read them myself in the meantime!
I'm so glad I made that decision because they have rapidly become books which I eagerly anticipate the release date of! I love reading them for myself, however, the biggest attraction for me as a parent (the quality of the writing - which is excellent - aside) is the lessons that they teach their young readers. I'm a great believer that books for children should be fun, but that there should also be a wider lesson to learn from them. One of my favourite YA authors is Rick Riordan and his books do precisely this - they not only contain brilliant stories and information about mythology, but they have heroes who are not perhaps traditional in these kinds of books - the Greek demigods are often dyslexic with ADHD, there are gender fluid characters, characters whose sexuality is other than heterosexual etc etc. They show young people that it's okay to be different to those around you, that being different doesn't make you lesser and that you have the right to be accepted just as you are.
In the Freddie Malone series I've found books that do the same kind of thing. Connor, Freddie's best friend is an overweight victim of bullying, but in this book he comes to the fore, rising above this and we see him begin to recognise the many wonderful qualities and talents he has. This is partly because of the support his friends give him, but is also about his personal growth in confidence. Ruby, the female third of the trio of heroes, is feisty and funny and she kicks arse! She is everything I want my female characters to be - when she needs to be rescued is not because she's a damsel in distress, it's because the plot needed her to be captured. It could just as easily have been Freddie or Connor who needed rescuing.
Reading the book at the present time, in light of the pandemic we are all living through and the BLM movement the themes within it seem especially relevant and the story doesn't shy away from the truths of living with and through a plague, or the realities of slavery.
My youngest is now five and last night we started reading the first Freddie book together. As I'm typing this, he's been looking over my shoulder asking if he can have this book and the look on his face when I told him he had all three was a picture! I now look forward to his bedtime for more than one reason!!