Summary from Publisher’s website
Shortlisted for the Peters Book of the Year
Seventeen-year-old Frank Palp lives in a grim little apartment, in a grim little building, in an exceedingly grim (and rather large) city. Cobbled streets and near-destroyed bridges lead one through Old Town and Old New Town, and war-damaged houses stand alongside post-war characterless, concrete hutches. Most people walk hunched over, a habit from avoiding snipers, but others are proud to stand tall and make the world take notice . . . This is a city full of contradictions, and Frank is no exception.
He mostly hates his life, he definitely hates the ludicrous city he is forced to live in and he absolutely with complete certainty hates the idiots he’s surrounded by . . . and yet he is in love. A love so pure and sparkling and colourful, Frank feels sure it is ‘meant to be’. His love is a reward for all the terrible grey that he is surrounded by – which would be great, if the girl in question knew he existed. And then one day, the perfect sign lands in his lap. A message, in a bottle. A wish, for ‘anything that isn’t this’. The girl who wrote this is surely his soulmate – and now he just needs to find her.
Hot Key October 2015
480 pages in paperback
The one that got away
Have you ever had a book get away from you? One you didn’t even know existed until you came across it well after publication? One that you absolutely love and cannot begin to understand why no-one pointed it out to you?
Well, I have.
And it’s called Anything That Isn't This.
Now I have to say it’s not for everyone. It most definitely is not my more usual 9-12 fantasy read. It’s meant for those on the edge of becoming an adult. It also works brilliantly for older readers reflecting on their own coming-of-age: I found a vein of dry humour in it too.
However, it certainly has more than a touch of dark Eastern European magical realism which I relish. If you’ve seen any Jan Švankmajer films or read any Kafka, you’ll have an idea. There’s also a hint of The Lives of Others (a film I would highly recommend – age 15+). But it doesn’t matter if you haven’t come across any of these: it’s not clever-clever. Those references are for the essential mood – not showing off.
Frank Palp’s story resembles some strange mid-century fairy-tale – told like a spy thriller. One where the 17-year-old central character constantly has to revise everything he thought he knew. It’s both fascinating and moving – and very true to many a teenager’s experience in an odd, parallel way. Despite having some large ideas, and being quite long, it’s easy to read. The style is deceptively simple – not unlike the drawings.
It’s chock full of Chris’s own illustrations. To see some of them, check out The Guardian’s gallery here. That way you’ll know if it’s right for you or the person you might give it to. As Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell said “An astonishing novel; beautiful to look at, thrilling to read.”
How I missed I doubt I shall ever know – but I am so glad I’ve caught up. If it looks remotely interesting, do try it. I’m giving one to my husband!
K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed and breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You'd be welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter