Sweetp-1's Reviews > A Small Free Kiss in the Dark

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard
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's review
Mar 29, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: ebook, ya, dystopian-post-ap
Read from March 09 to 29, 2012

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark is a rare gem in a YA genre full of cliches, the ever-present love triangle and hormone fuelled angst. There's nothing about this book which made me think I'd read it before. Hooray!

It's sparse and almost simple in presentation, but it's not until the sentences have settled on your skin for a few moments you realise how cleverly its written. The narrator is a 12 year old boy - Skip - who has run away from foster homes to live on the streets. Skip is an artist, and sees things with the kind of detail that makes even the mundane seem beautiful. He befriends Billy, a homeless "old timer" who has his own dark past but helps Skip survive on the streets. When war suddenly strikes their city the pair find themselves caring for a young boy and are later joined by a teenage dancer and her baby. The group form an unlikely "family" and camp out in an adventure park in no-man's land. The setting is an unnamed city in Australia (well at least my version appeared to be so, if they're playing cricket on the beach and getting Vegemite from the supermarket it's fairly clear the setting is down under somewhere).

While I've marked the book as dystopia, it isn't really - more a tale of survival during wartime, but that perhaps has similarities with the kind of adapting to life when society falls over themes you find in dystopian fiction. In this case Billy and Skip are pretty adept at doing their best with very little and in some ways they do better because they were homeless before. It's a nice spin on the 'how will we cope' question. The war stuff is fairly oblique and nameless, and happens on the periphery of Skip's world view - there's no politics or anything of that nature to keep track of.

While the set up is fairly bleak, Skip's unfailing belief that everything will be Ok keeps the reader buoyant and the books also ends in a hopeful place.

I hardly ever quote from books but there were so many lovely phrases that really touched me. Here are a couple:

Skip on Max (the little boy who they adopt into their group) finding his mother and leaving them.

"The thought of Max finding his mother was as lonely as an albatross."

Skip at the end of a chapter after the dancer and her baby (who they name Sixpence) have joined them. "I have especially made this chapter short because it's mostly about small and precious things, like sixpences and babies."

Skip (in the middle of a war) on the important things in life; "...to where my books where hidden. I put the one about Monet in my backpack. I wanted to be by myself for a little while, just to think about things the way I used to; important things like light and shade and the meanings of color."

I would absolutely read this again one day. Beautifully written, and easy to see why it is award worthy.


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03/29/2012 page 50

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