This is a book of startling differences: the beauty of the Yorkshire Moors contrasted with the ugliness of Sam Marsdyke, an unlovely, unloved 19-year-old farm boy; Sam’s charming dialect (words like “glishy” and “slotched” appear in almost every paragraph) and the grim events narrated, solely from his point of view and free from formal punctuation. Sam is ostracised, having been expelled from school on what he sees as a trumped-up rape charge. His way of life is disappearing, as neighbours sell their smallholdings to developers, and his violent father and worried mother offer little comfort. Yet whatever pity Marsdyke draws is dashed away violently on every page. When Sam befriends a 15-year old schoolgirl newly arrived from London, his psychologically unbalanced narration is rendered deftly. Is he hearing conversations, or imagining them? If animals speak to him, how faithful are his reports of the dialogue?
The book’s closest comparisons would be with Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy or William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Yet it could also slip in beside canonical texts such as A Clockwork Orange or I’m the King of the Castle, as bothworthy literary workout and an exercise on the hazards of early maturity.