“Non Pratt is always right on the money
as far as friendships go.”
Four friends meet at their old school to open a memory box they hid there when they were thirteen. They had been an unlikely bunch who grew close after they were thrown together one year at Summer Club. At the time when they made the memory box they thought they’d be together for ever. That didn’t happen – most of them moved away soon afterwards and they’ve scarcely seen or contacted each other since that time, five years ago. In fact, the one person who held on to all of them, the one who asked them all to come and open the memory box, Millie, isn’t there. Millie is dead and by opening the memory box, the other four are honouring her memory.
Unboxed is a story of secrets kept and secrets revealed. As the box is opened, we learn a little more about who each of the four characters used to be – sorry, five, I’m forgetting the absent Millie – how each of them fitted into the group, and, very gradually, who they are now is revealed. It’s a great premise, the bringing together of a disparate group to see what happens and what is revealed, and here what sprang into my head was that movie The Breakfast Club – this was almost like seeing what the five of them would have been like five years on.
This is not an action-packed book – apart from the sequence where the group raid their former school and daringly extract the memory box from its hiding place in a way that I found rather difficult to picture to be honest, but that could just have been my brain screaming, ‘No! Stop that right now! You’re going to DIE!’ Most of the story involves talking and reminiscing but it rattles along, full of incident and revelation, an intense examination of a friendship. Non Pratt is always right on the money as far as friendships go: here we see the intense awkwardness of meeting people you were once intimate with at a time when it seems to you that you were a completely different person; the reluctance to reveal anything to anyone; the very gradual opening up as each member of the group remembers and begins to feel again some of the connections; and then there are the new connections forged by their new selves.
It’s a short novel, simply written in brief chapters. The publisher, Barrington Stoke, specialises in producing books that are accessible to children who have difficulties with reading – ‘super-readable’ is what they call their books. You can find out more about Barrington Stoke here. They have commissioned books from some of the most fabulous writers writing today, producing books with older themes for teens with less developed reading skills. Don’t even dream of letting that put you off : there’s nothing school-bookish or worthy about Unboxed, nor any of the other Barrington Stoke titles I’ve come across. Unboxed is not just a cracking read; it’s a beautiful thing with a glittery cover, gold under the cover and gorgeous, thick, creamy paper.
More to Read!
If you want to read another fabulous evocation of friendship, try Non Pratt’s Remix, review here.
Claire Watts writes and edits fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults.
Her latest YA novel is How Do You Say GOOSEBERRY in French?
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