Claire Weeks is fed up with her life. Friendless and picked on at school ever since her best friend moved away, she longs to feel like she fits in somewhere. Then, on her 15th birthday, a mysterious card turns up addressed to someone called ‘Cherokee Brown’, and her mother’s reaction sets off a chain of events that Claire could never have foreseen. Soon she’s skipping school to meet her birth father in secret, and finding out how to be brave.
At the start of this story, Claire has just bought a second-hand how-to-write book with an old-fashioned, chatty tone. The chapters in Finding Cherokee Brown are framed with quotes from the book and extracts of Claire’s own writing, as she follows the guidebook’s instructions. I loved this part of the story – both Agatha Dashwood’s voice and Claire’s response to it are very amusing and entertaining.
I enjoyed the gradual way that Claire changed in the course of the story, and the repercussions that these changes had on all the other characters. In particular, the bullying storyline plays out satisfyingly yet realistically, and I found the inclusion of Claire’s unsupportive class teacher to be fascinating and important. As with Dear Dylan, Siobhan Curham does not shy away from featuring imperfect adults. There’s a brilliant scene at Claire’s school where her parents and teachers all miss the clues behind her troubled behaviour, with excruciating results. Sadly, it’s easy to imagine something like this happening in real life. It’s wonderful to see the way that Claire begins to recognise her own strength.
The book had an extra bonus for me personally – Claire lives in the London borough I grew up in, and it was great to read about all the familiar places, including a library I worked in...
A touching and uplifting novel. Highly recommended!
Review by Luisa
Finding Cherokee Brown by Siobhan Curham