I am not quite sure now why I expected this to be rubbish. I am fairly certain that if this book had been like "Aurora Leigh", it would probably not have been shortlisted. Because that wasn't really marketed for children. So, I was expecting this book to be boring and try-hard, and actually it was neither.
It was really easy for forget that it was written in verse. Not because the verse wasn't good, although it is fairly free-form, but because it didn't feel in any way contrived. This is a massive achievement since "contrived" is a word which generally associates very closely with the term "verse novel".
The subject matter was interesting and relevant to teens. It's about a young Polish girl who moves with her mother to Coventry from Gdansk to find her runaway father. Having moved to Coventry myself at a similar age, I found that this hooked me in, although I appreciate that is an atypical reason for identifying with a novel, and am in no way implying that to enjoy the book you have to have moved to Coventry at around the time you were going through puberty.
The book explores the issues of family breakdown, bullying, fitting in at school, loss and first love without ever being navel-gazing. Again, "navel-gazing" being the exact term that I would normally associate with any teen angst poem. I am forced to admit that there is really no competition between the protagonist Kasienka's verse narrative, and my own poems, brought about by my move to Coventry, which mainly focused on people making fun of the way I said "carstle" instead of "casstle".
Perhaps this should be the subject of my great work - the one thing which has followed me wherever I have gone (assuming where I have gone is north of Oxford) - people making fun of my "weird vowels". Perhaps this will be my Carnegie winner. But then again maybe not.
The completion of this rather wonderful book (which can be read by a voracious reader in the course of one evening, quite easily) means that I have now read all of the shortlisted books for this year's Carnegie Medal. Much as this one would probably not be my winner, I think it would certainly be a worthy one. It takes more risks than any of the other novels, and is refreshing in its originality.
If I were forced at gunpoint to decide (which is obviously a regular occurrence when shadowing children's book awards), I think I would go for A Boy and a Bear in a Boat. However, I can certainly see this book winning. I think Maggot Moon is in with a very good chance too. All of the shortlisted books, with the exception of Wonder which seems extremely flimsy in comparison, are exceptional books in their own way.