Carolyn Storer's Reviews > The Radleys

The Radleys by Matt Haig
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Jun 12, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: young-adult, book-list-2010
Read from June 23 to 25, 2010

Helen and Peter Radley have a huge secret they really don't want to tell their children, as they want them to live a normal life as possible - but things aren't gong to plan.

Rowan can't sleep at night and thinks it's a bad case of insomnia, he then wants to sleep all day. He's also allergic to the sun and has to apply factor 60 otherwise his skin gets covered in a sore itchy rash. He constantly gets bullied at school and is totally in love with a girl at school who's friends with his sister and is totally out of his league. Basically, Rowan hates his life.

Clara doesn't have the same problems as her brother, but she does have her own. Clara is sick all the time, literally, and her parents keep telling her that she really should eat meat and stop this nonsense of becoming a vegan, but they just don't understand, although she doesn't get why she's so nauseous all the time, but her father, who's a doctor, keeps telling her it's probably just a virus. Animals also hate her, even though she's really nice to them, so she's become an advocate of several 'against animal cruelty' societies and covers her bedroom walls with their posters.

But one fateful night, Clara is feeling worse and worse and then does something that changes her life and those of her family forever. Because of this, Helen and Peter are pressured into telling Clara and Rowan their secret; they are abstaining vampires and haven't tasted blood for seventeen years. In a fit of panic, Peter calls his brother for help, but for some reason calling Will fills Helen with dread, as she has even more secrets of her own, which she doesn't want even Peter to know about.

Helen and Peter's relationship is full of tension and the strain of trying to be normal all the time is taking it's toll. Individually they reminisce about the days they drank human blood and how much they miss it. And when Will flies in to help, things just go from bad to worse.

Over the course of the book, secrets are revealed, lives are turned upside down and The Radleys has an ending that had me completely enthralled.

After reading the first few pages, I was expecting a more humorous story about a family of vampires but instead it's quite a dark tale. There is a slight tongue-in-cheek humour but it's not enough to lighten the book into a comedy. I suppose I assumed it would be something more a long the lines of The Adams Family. I wasn't disappointed, it just wasn't what I expected.

The point of view changes throughout the book to all the different characters, which worked really well. It was great to hear what they were all thinking and feeling, it gave the book depth. All the characters were three-dimentional and I loved them all and had sympathy for them and their predicaments, even Will's (which I won't go into as it's Helen's secret to tell!).

On a bit of a side note: The Radleys is being repackaged by Canongate Walker and is marketed as a young adult novel. However, I feel that this is definitely a YA/Adult crossover, with the emphasis on 'Adult'. This book has a very mature tone, more so than other young adult books I've read and although the press release states it's a "story about growing up, first and foremost", I believe that this is a bit misleading.

The book does tell the story of Clara and Rowan, but it also tells the story of the adult characters, Helen, Peter and Will in equal measure. To me it is about the family as a whole and deals with the fallout of secrets revealed. There's also a significant amount of high-end swearing as well as scenes of a sexual nature that are written, in my opinion, with adults in mind, rather than children, and therefore I would only recommend this book 16+.

VERDICT:

The Radleys is a wonderfully written book. It's a fun, original concept I haven't seen anywhere else. The ending wraps things up nicely, but for me I would love a sequel - now the secret is out and all the family is "in-the-know", I can just see the Radleys getting into all sorts of trouble! I really enjoyed this book and I loved the authors writing style, I will definitely be checking out Haig's backlist.
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