As a disabled reviewer reading books about disabled people is something I try to do as often as I can, so when Rachel contacted me about reviewing this book I had no choice but to accept. The disability rep in the book is quite good, although there were parts I would’ve changed personally, but I feel the title is a little misleading as the book has two protagonists & the one without the disability takes the spotlight.
I was sent this book by Rachel’s Random Resources in return for an honest review as part of a blog tour.
This book contains ableism, homophobia, mental health issues, discussions of suicidal feelings,
discussions of minors engaging in sexual activity, drug/alcohol abuse, abortion & other sensitive subjects.
Daryl Wainwright is the quirky youngest child of a large family of petty thieves and criminals who calls himself ‘Thalidomide Kid’.
Celia Burkett is the new girl at the local primary school, and the daughter of the deputy head at the local comprehensive where she is bound the following September. With few friends, Celia soon becomes fascinated by ‘the boy with no arms’.
The story of a blossoming romance and sexual awakening between a lonely girl and a disabled boy, and their struggle against adversity and prejudice as they pass from primary to secondary school in 1970s Cirencester. The story deals with themes and issues that are timeless.
I have very mixed feelings about this book – positive feelings for the almost faultless disability rep, as well as for the general story-line, but negative feelings for the misleading title. The book is focused on two characters, one of which is a boy called Daryl who has arms that didn’t fully form when he was in the womb due to his mother taking a drug called Thalidomide – something that was advertised as an anti-morning sickness medication but turned out to have devastating side-effects . Before going into this book I had heard of the drug & it’s affect on fetuses, but had never looked into it properly; I was hoping that this book would educate me about the topic, & it did in some ways, but Daryl’s story was totally shadowed by the story of Celia & it felt like the book was more about her than Daryl.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for books with disabled characters that aren’t about the disabled character’s disability however, due to the title of this book I thought I was going to be reading about Daryl’s situation specifically, & how he coped with growing up disabled & how this affected his social & romantic life… & we did get that, but like I said, Celia’s narrative felt a lot stronger & it felt like Daryl was just a secondary character, there to try & keep Celia on the right path. Sigh.
This leads me onto the other problem I had with the book – Daryl comes from a family of law-breakers & I didn’t like the portrayal that only families in those circumstances took Thalidomide; from what I know of the drug, it was something taken by hundreds, if not thousands of women all over England, so there’s no reason why Daryl’s family had to be portrayed the way they were. I also didn’t really like that Daryl was there to “save” Celia from another boy that leads her astray – us disabled people aren’t there to fix your lives, ableds.
Nevertheless, Thalidomide Kid was a good story – if you’re looking for a book about messed up teenagers in the 1970s that make all sorts of silly mistakes. The character development in the book was good & the plot moved well, most of the time. The writing was also of a good standard & the book was entertaining. I just can’t help but feel a little deflated because the book wasn’t about what the title led me to believe it would be about. I came for Daryl, & mainly got Celia.
I recommend this book to people who like contemporaries about teenage drama & kids falling in love – although there are discussions of sexual acts between children under 16 so it’s up to you to make your mind up about how you feel about that (it made me a little uncomfortable if I’m honest).
Kate Rigby was born near Liverpool and now lives in the south west of England. She’s been writing for nearly forty years. She has been traditionally published, small press published and indie published. She realised her unhip credentials were mounting so she decided to write about it. Little Guide to Unhip was first published in 2010 and has since been updated.
However she’s not completely unhip. Her punk novel, Fall Of The Flamingo Circus was published by Allison & Busby (1990) and by Villard (American hardback 1990). Skrev Press published her novels Seaview Terrace (2003) Sucka!(2004) and Break Point (2006) and other shorter work has appeared in Skrev’s magazines. Thalidomide Kid was published by Bewrite Books (2007). Her novel Savage To Savvy was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) Quarter-Finalist in 2012.
She has had other short stories published and shortlisted including Hard Workers and Headboards, first published in The Diva Book of Short Stories, in an erotic anthology published by Pfoxmoor Publishing and more recently in an anthology of Awkward Sexcapades by Beating Windward Press. She also received a Southern Arts bursary for her novel Where A Shadow Played (now re-Kindled as Did You Whisper Back?).
She has re-Kindled her backlist and is gradually getting her titles (back) into paperback
More information can be found at her website: http://kjrbooks.yolasite.com/
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