Book – Stone Cold
Author – Robert Swindells
Year – 1993
Genre – Young Adult Fiction
Pages – 135
When I was a child – probably about nine or ten – I first read this book, and I can distinctly remember the effect that it had on me. I had never before read a novel that had such an effect on the way I thought about something in the real world. As a kid, all I did was read, and had gotten through hundreds of books already, but they had all been a little bit twee in comparison to this I felt, because suddenly I was presented with the life of someone who could be real, and was put in bad circumstances.
The story follows Link, a teenage boy who is forced out of his home by an abusive stepfather and moves to London to live on the streets. At the same time, we also see the journal entries of Shelter, a former soldier who now sees it as his life’s job to rid the world of the homeless. As you may guess, the two paths meet, and therein lies the plot.
However, this not the part of the book that is truly brilliant. Whilst I suppose you need a plot like that to let the book work – and to make it exciting enough for younger readers to want to get through – it is the story of Link, and both how he became homeless and how he deals with it that is what makes this book so special. It struck me then – and now on my reread – just how easy he falls into homelessness. The Christmas that his family buy him a sleeping bag because it will be useful as he is sleeping rough serves as a reminder to him that his family don’t care, and indeed the fact that both his mother and his sister own their own houses and yet can’t see themselves to help him is both shocking and saddening to me. Followed as it does by the stark reality of how hard it is living on the streets, and you receive a new appreciation that not everyone you see on the streets is a drunk or a druggie, and actually there are some genuinely sad circumstances behind some of their problems.
I would have this book down as a must read. It is aimed at young adults, but there is so much to be gained from it, and it is a light read, that it is worth anyone picking it up.