Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Radleys - Matt Haig

The Radleys by Matt Haig was published in July 2010 by Walker Canongate who I have to thank for sending me a copy for review. It is 352 pages long with a RRP of £10.

At 17 Orchard Lane, Bishopthorpe, Yorkshire lives the Radleys. The Radleys are your average 2.4 family who are dysfunctional and argumentative... but only on the outside. Peter, Helen and their teenage children, Rowan and Clara are vampires (although the kids don't actually know this). The Radleys aren't your usual kind of vampires though, they are abstainers who do everything possible to live a normal, human life.

One night, events spin out of control for Clara who unknowingly makes a huge mistake. Peter and Helen are forced to confess to their children about who and what they really are and what Clara's actions could mean for the family. As Rowan and Clara come to terms with the real reason why they always have to wear sun block and why no one in the family likes garlic, a higher power is at work behind the scenes. The arrival of Uncle Will threatens everything that Peter and Helen have worked to achieve, leaving their future in a cloud of uncertainty.

What I thought
Having heard so many good things about this book, I couldn't wait to read a different take on a vampire story. I had quite high expectations but The Radleys didn't let me down at all!

This is a book that without its great characters, would probably be a flop. Each member of the Radley family has their own clear personality that makes them stand out against each other. I really liked the fact that everyone was so different but also the fact that despite this, they were still so much like a real family inclusive of their every day problems. There is no main character either as each family member has a significant part to play in the story. The idea of abstainers is one that I enjoyed and it is completely different to how the Cullens from Twilight operate. Throughout the book, we get to read extracts from 'The Abstainer's Handbook' and I loved these parts. They really made it possible to understand what the Radleys were going through and who they were trying to be.

Poor Rowan is pretty much an outcast at school and would be completely if it wasn't for his sister and her friend Eve (who he is very much obsessed with). He's lucky if he can get a solid 2 hours of a sleep a night and can usually be seen covered in a red rash because of his allergy to the sun. I felt really sorry for Rowan, being a teenage boy who seemed to have nothing going for him. It's clear that it takes a lot for him to actually get on the bus everyday to go to school as he knows what is waiting for him. The bullies never really let up on Rowan and are determined to make his life hell every single day. Rowan really hates his life and unfortunately, I would too if I were him.

Clara is determined to be a vegan, no matter how much her parents protest. She thinks they just don't understand why she doesn't want to eat meat and save the animals when really, they know that not eating meat is really bad for her health. When Clara begins to get sick, she doesn't understand why she wants to throw up all of the time or why she feels so weak and refuses to believe her dad, the doctor, that it is all really because she isn't eating meat. Clara is a very determined teenager and that was something that I really enjoyed about her character. She's feisty and knows her own mind very well and was someone that I could connect with. Without the whole vampire part of course!

Matt Haig has done a fantastic job with these teenagers and makes them seem so real, vampires parts included. Nothing about them ever felt false or forced and I loved the fact that they came over as completely English. Sometimes in a book the characters' backgrounds can be very nondescript but here, you cant mistake the fact that they are English. Rowan and Clara also make great siblings, acting exactly like you would imagine a brother and sister would.

As parents, Peter and Helen couldn't be more different. Helen's back story is such a huge part of the plot and I ended up feeling sorry for her at points but also wanting to slap her. As a young woman, she made some terrible decisions that affected her whole life and they have now come back to bite her (pardon the pun). The way she feels about these mistakes has a huge impact on her relationship with Peter. He is a doctor and being a vampire makes his job pretty uncomfortable at times. Peter knows that there is something wrong with his marriage but doesn't know why Helen is so distant and uncaring.

The arrival of Peter's brother Will completely shakes up the story and makes it even more interesting. The fact that he is a bad man isn't sugar coated at all and even though I should have completely hated him, his disturbing charm slightly won me over. When he arrives at the family home, he does everything he can to mess with their minds and make them want to believe in the way that he lives his life. Will is the complete opposite to Peter and has never wanted to abstain. He has way too much fun being a vampire the old fashioned way.

Each chapter tells a part of the story from one of the family's point of view but also from a couple of their neighbours. The fact that we got to see what people were thinking on the outside made this book different to anything that I had read before. Due to the way this story is told, you really get to see the whole picture and how certain actions and decisions can affect more than one person.

The Radleys wasn't what I was expecting at all but in an extremely good way. What I found was a very interesting story with a lot of dark and mysterious aspects and one that is slyly humourous. This family sucked me in and got a hold on me that didn't give. This vampire story will be unlike anything you have read before and one that you should give a chance, even if you aren't into vampires.

Forget Forks. Bishopthorpe is the new town for vegetarians!


Bonnie said...

Hi Lyndsey, I have heard so many good things about this book and it's different take on vampires. I really have to search it out. Thanks for the awesome review.

xo, Bonnie

Anonymous said...

I've got this to read, it looks good so I might have to bump it up my list a little!

Michelle Fluttering Butterflies said...

I can't wait for this one! I keep reading such good things about it! :)

Vicki said...

I'm looking forward to getting stuck into this sounds so unique! great review.

Unknown said...

I had not heard of this boo, but it sounds great!! Great review =D

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