Sheffield, 1970s. Two seventeen-year-old girls, Beth and Alex are the best of friends. They’re inseparable, until one day Alex goes missing without a trace. Beth is shocked: where did Alex go? Determined to track her down and knowing that Alex must have had her reasons, Beth refuses to help the police. When Beth discovers that Alex has travelled to London with no intention of coming back, she decides she must travel down to pick her up. It is a decision that will change her life.
Looking for Alex is a well-crafted novel by Marian Dillon. A coming of age novel based in Sheffield and London, the story is set both in the 1970 punk-era and the present day. Dillon’s novel is full of contrasts; it pictures what seems a safe middle class environment in the north of England and moves to a dilapitated London suburb where sex and drugs experimentation is rife.
For a brief moment, Beth can see the attraction of living with a bunch of punk squatters and when she meets Fitz life is perfect. But Alex’s boyfriend, squatter Pete has darker motives, preying on the young and vulnerable.
The story shows a ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture of restricted teenage life and ‘free’ adults – and all its consequences. As the past becomes the present, Beth and Alex seem trapped: will they ever be able to reconcile with the past and accept who they have become?
This is Dillon’s first full-length adult novel, having previously written books for children. Dillon’s story is refreshing, well written and to the point.
Dillon convincingly deals with the topics of lost friendships and abusive relationships. Describing the development of two stroppy but forward-looking teenagers into adulthood, with all their dreams and fears, is done with conviction.
Thanks to the timeframe, teenage to adulthood elements and romantic touches, this book reminded me of David Nicholls’ One Day. If you liked this bestseller, you will certainly enjoy Looking for Alex.
Marian Dillon’s second novel is planned to come out later this year.