Tuesday 3 October 2017

My Side of the Diamond, Sally Gardner

"That illustrates the mother theory perfectly," said Becky. "She is just another loser exiled from the couple kingdom. Watch how fast your paper house burns down, Mrs Burns"
Jazmin has been shunned ever since her best friend Becky disappeared. But Becky didn't just disappear - she jumped off a tall building and seemingly never reached the ground. It was as if she simply vanished into thin air. Did Jazmin have something to do with her disappearance? Or was it more to do with Icarus, so beguiling and strangely ever youthful, with whom Becky became suddenly besotted . . .

* * 
2 / 5 

I’m not really an alien book person. This is perhaps a peculiar quirk in my reading tastes: I love YA, I love sci-fi, and I love fantasy. I love books set on other worlds, around other cultures, that feature new, imaginative, and fascinating ways of existence and belief. So I like aliens. But I do not like books about aliens; books about UFOs and strange government programmes and weird aliens impersonating humans. Which is, weirdly, exactly what My Side of the Diamond turned out to be.

Judge me, hate me, find me unforgiven. You won’t be the first. I have lived with it long enough. It changes nothing.

It didn’t start off like that. It started off with a girl, Jazmin, telling her peculiar story to a man. We are teased with a mystery: Jazmin’s best friend Becky jumped off a tower with a man, strangely called Icarus, and they both vanished before ever hitting the ground. Jazmin was scapegoated, her story laughed at in court, and her name and reputation dragged through the mud. But we aren’t there yet. Jazmin met Becky when they were both young; Jazmin stole her notebook, where she had written amazing stories about aliens in. Later, Becky’s mum pressures her into getting a publisher to sell her book, The Martian Winter, which later becomes a bestseller. Jazmin watches, distressed, as her own life falls apart between her poor, abandoning mother and being homeless, and as Becky becoming more and more withdrawn, refusing to eat.

The pair take a holiday to a small village, where Becky becomes obsessed with the story of a man called Icarus, who about twenty years ago convinced a young man, Lazarus who used to be called Luke before he rose from the dead, and Skye, the strange adopted daughter of a local artist called Phoebe, to jump from a tower. Becky goes to the prison to meet him, under the pretence of inspiration for another book, but instead of meeting a forty year old man, she meets a young seventeen year old. Who then appears in the pub, claiming to have walked through the walls of the prison to get there. Becky is instantly besotted with him.

“This house and the house in London, are built on lies,” she said. “Lies are bricks that the truth slowly moulders away until the house falls down”
It only really gets weirder and more complicated from there. We mostly hear from Jazmin, whose story crosses between her romance and sexual exploits with Becky’s half-brother Alex, and her encounters with a killer robot hybrid Doubleday, and odd masked men. But we also bounce backwards in time to hear from Rex, the brother of Lazarus, and his friend Mina, who is Alex’s mother, who knew Phoebe who’s strange daughter was Skye. There’s also the brother of Frank, who is Phoebe’s husband, who is a chimney-sweeper, and on and on go these connections, the past and present blending together.

“No,” said Becky. It was that “no” that became the lock on the door of a lie. One lie, two lies, three lies, and all truth lies ripped apart

It’s very clever, how all these people and threads interconnect, melding weird alien stuff with normal problems like Becky’s father eloping with her publisher whilst her mother breaks down and flies to India to consult a guru. Okay, maybe not normal problems, but closer to it. But whilst it’s clever, it’s also very complex and I couldn’t for the life of me keep everyone straight. I was constantly going “who the heck is Mark”, flipping forwards and backwards to the point where I had to write it down to remember. 

Make no mistake, My Side of the Diamond is an excellent written and well-thought out book, it just wasn’t my kind of book. I wouldn’t have picked it up had I known it was going to feature aliens and conspiracy theories so heavily, or that it was going to be so odd. That’s the one word I would pick to describe this book: bizarre. This book is really weird and I did think it was brilliant, just not to my tastes.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book

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