By Malcolm Duffy
In this unflinching, heartfelt story about homelessness, award-winning author Malcolm Duffy brings the all too real plight of life on the streets to your doorstep and immediately demands complete attention and action from the very first sentence, ‘You never forget the day you lose your home. I lost mine on a Tuesday.’
15-year-old Tyler’s world is turned upside down when his family uproot and leave London for a new life in Ilkley, Yorkshire. Angry, upset and bored, Tyler finds comfort in swimming at the local lido and quickly come to befriend Spider – a sofa surfer teen down on luck and about to be without a sofa. As Tyler is drawn deeper into a world he never knew existed, he finds himself spinning a tangled web of lies in his efforts to help Spider escape a world of fear and insecurity.
As thoughtful as it is eye-opening, Duffy, with great consideration and sensitivity, refuses to give space to the negative stereotypes and connotations associated with homelessness. Rather, through the character of Spider, a vulnerable teenage girl, reinforces the reality that homelessness is a universal situation and impartial to any age, gender or race. For any reader, but particularly the intended YA readership, the terrifying and dangerous reality of homelessness feels otherworldly but Sofa Surfer shines an uncompromising light on just how real and relatable this issue is. Spider could easily be a friend, or a classmate, and it’s this urgent thought that will ignite empathy and inspire action in all its readers.
Duffy doesn’t shy away from the gritty and difficult descriptions of life on the streets but, and by no means overshadowing the importance, he uses his skill and platform to bring hope and heart to a naturally very heavy subject, and with his undeniable trademark humour has you holding down laughter.
Masterfully weaved into this is a courageous coming of age tale of belonging, friendship, and the importance of empathy and understanding. I loved both Tyler and Spider’s characters. Despite navigating polar opposite situations both characters came off relatable and admirable, but it was their sheer tenacity and trust for one another that had me holding my breath and racing towards the end of this unforgettable story.
Truthful, compelling and fearlessly insightful, Sofa Surfer, without any shadow of a doubt, lives up to the promise of Duffy’s acclaimed and powerful debut, Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. Duffy has once again showcased his talent for writing timely and topical narratives whilst never losing humour and heart.
A worthy, highly recommended, read. I look forward to what Malcolm Duffy gifts us with next.
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