'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Review: The Simple Gift

Billy is a 16-year-old boy escaping from an abusive father. Old Bill is a homeless man whose overwhelming grief has caused him to turn his back on his former life. Caitlin is a 17-year-old rich girl frustrated with the impersonal excesses of her privileged family. Together, they are about to discover that simple gifts like time and friendship can connect the most unlikely people.

The Simple Gift was first published in 2000 with author Steven Herrick inspired to create this touching verse novel because he saw young people becoming increasingly marginalised by mainstream media and wanted to encourage adults to accept, encourage and embrace their world.

Billy, Old Bill and Caitlin share the narration. It is made very clear that we can assume little from the outward appearance of a person as we eavesdrop on their thoughts, discovering far more than a rebellious runaway teen, pathetic old hobo and daddy’s little princess. My heart ached for each character as they felt so disconnected and isolated.

I was incredibly moved by the experiences of Billy and Old Bill. Their stories are told simply and this somehow makes them all the more heartbreaking. The broken layout of the text in the free verse format caused me to read more slowly rather than racing ahead as I usually do, and this increased the impact of the story. The text is pared back to what really matters – thoughts, emotions and memories that connect the reader with surprising intensity to the characters and their experiences.

The Simple Gift is a beautifully crafted story that reminds us that there is more to people than meets the eye. It has a very positive message about the value of kindness and generosity, the importance of not making assumptions and the impact of simply taking the time to hear someone’s story. The Simple Gift reminded me that I need to slow down and really look and listen when I am interacting with others; that little things can make a big difference.

I love Steven Herrick’s work and I’m pleased that this book is being re-released to connect with another group of teens and adults. In an increasingly disconnected world, with particular disconnection between the generations, The Simple Gift reminds us that we each have something to give to touch the lives of others in a meaningful way.

Title: The Simple Gift
Author: Steven Herrick
Publisher: UQP, $19.95 RRP
Publication Date: January 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780702231339
For ages: 13+
Type: Young Adult Fiction

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