By Phil Earle, published by Puffin.
Goodreads synopsis: “Faces flashed before my eyes. And for every face there was a time that they had let me down. Each punch that landed was revenge, my chance to tell them I hadn’t forgotten what they did.”
Eight years in a care home makes Billy Finn a professional lifer. And Billy’s angry – with the system, the social workers, and the mother that gave him away. As far as Billy’s concerned, he’s on his own. His little brother and sister keep him going, though they can’t keep him out of trouble. But he isn’t being difficult on purpose. Billy’s just being Billy. He can’t be anything else.
My Review: After reading and really enjoying Heroic, Phil Earle’s newest book, I decided that I should read his other two. I picked up this, his debut, along with Heroic, and really couldn’t wait to start it too. I was totally blown away by this! It went above and beyond all of my expectations and it’s one of the best pieces of contemporary fiction that I’ve read this year, and a close contender to John Green’s writing. I enjoyed it so much! Billy is living in a care home and he hates it. The only thing stopping him from doing a runner is his two younger siblings. He’s alone and angry, but some things are about to change his life.
Apart from Tracy Beaker, which I read when I was younger, I don’t think that I’ve ever read a book about a person growing up in a care home. Truthfully, the book was such an emotional roller-coaster, thanks to the setting and Billy’s family life. Phil Earle has captured life in a care home so well, and I read that the author actually used to work in the social care area. I think that helped him to give this book an emotional punch, and made the setting realistic and believable with raw, truthful elements.
The plot was just brilliant. From the beginning I was totally absorbed in the story: Billy sneaks back into his care home after breaking out, and he is restrained by the carers and an argument ensues. Then, he soon meets a girl called Daisy on a walk. As the two get to know each other more, Billy is also facing an inner-conflict about whether or not to make contact with his old foster parents, who he parted with after a terrible incident.
From the beginning, I knew that Billy was going to be an entirely unforgettable character. Plunged straight into his shocking life, I understood him straight away. He was such a realistic character, and the author has portrayed him excellently. He had such raw emotions, that made me sympathize with him so much. I felt his anger and pain through the author’s brilliant narration. He made for such a brilliant protagonist, who I was rooting for throughout. I got to know him so well, because as the story progressed hints were dropped at Billy’s abusive past, which was eventually revealed and left me totally dumbfounded. what I loved about him was that he stayed strong, just for his twin siblings, who are living in care with him, and that behind his defence walls, he was just a boy. It made me just want to go and hug him!
Daisy, the girl that he meets, was also a really likeable character. I found it very clever how her story linked into Billy’s at the ending, in a totally unpredictable plot twist. The other character that I really loved was the care worked who Billy originally hates. It was really shocking, how he became a hated character at the beginning to quite a liked one toward the end.
Overall, Being Billy was a really amazing debut, from a brilliant author. It’s a really emotional read, by an author who packs so much thought and feelings into his immaculate, detailed writing. The setting was really realistic, and made me think so much about children growing up in a care home. The characters were also really realistic- and so believable. Billy is an unforgettable character who I really want to read so much more about! I now cannot wait to start Saving Daisy, Phil Earle’s other novel. I think it’s like a prequel to Being Billy, about Daisy’s life before she meets him. But I’m not entirely sure. Either way, I’m sure I’ll love that as much as I did this!
I bought a copy of Being Billy, in a box set of Phil Earle’s books, in a local shop.