Both harrowing and life-affirming, the final novel from Carnegie Medal-winning author Mal Peet is the sweeping coming-of-age adventure of a mixed race boy transported to North America. Born from a street liaison between a poor young woman and an African sailor in the 1900s, Beck is soon orphaned and sent to the Catholic Brothers in Canada. Shipped to work on a farm, his escape takes him across the continent in a search for belonging. Enduring abuse and many hardships, Beck has times of comfort and encouragement, eventually finding Grace, the woman with whom he can finally forge his life and shape his destiny as a young man. A picaresque novel set during the Depression as experienced by a young black man, it depicts great pain but has an uplifting and inspiring conclusion.
Shortlisted for Carnegie Medal 2017.
The gut-wrenching story of a boy searching for warmth in a cold and often hostile world. [...] Beck is a fantastic character - clever, resourceful, and with an indomitable instinct for survival. You want to follow him right up to his hard-won happy ending. The Guardian This extraordinary novel is powerful, shocking, uplifting, funny and beautifully written. Every page of this book is bursting with life, observation, feeling and conviction. It is a collaboration between two remarkable writers, fusing the best of both. The Sunday Times Book of The Week The author's language is so rich throughout and Beck's journey told with such apparent effortlessness, this swan song deserves readers and a prize of its own. The Times Weekend A master storyteller The Bookseller Peet is fabulously talented -- Amanda Craig The Literary Review For some time now Mal Peet has been the most elegant prose stylist in the world of young-adult fiction [...] one of our best novelists, full stop. -- Anthony McGowan Peet died more than a year ago, so a final novel from him is something very special indeed. [...] an episodic coming-of-age drama that is powerful and harrowing but ultimately uplifting. The Bookseller His final book, almost finished at the time of his death, and completed by Rosoff at his request. It's a powerful, harrowing and ultimately uplifting coming-of-age drama following the adventures of a mixed-race boy transported to North America. The Bookseller A compelling coming-of-age story, with an equally beautiful and brutal backstory Eastern Daily Press Beck is a beautiful story, with a sad but beautiful background. Bookwitch It's a raw, challenging, coming-of-age story where the instinct to survive almost trumps the power of love. Peet's wit seeps through the darkness and though Rosoff 's almost invisible hand is skilful, it reminds us of what a wonderful writer we have lost. Daily Mail How much of this is Peet and how much Rosoff is left an open question. What really matters is that this novel definitely comes off, with its softening of tone towards the end balanced by the graphic cruelty that has gone before. Beck himself is a difficult, taciturn character, who has long 'misered the cold coins of disappointment close to his heart.' Understandably suspicious whenever things seem to be working out for him he is still able to accept his good fortune by the end, and a few if any of his readers would wish it otherwise. Books for Keeps Engrossing, overwhelming and at times shocking, Beck is an epic novel in just over 250npages. It's impossible to tell where Peet's work ended and Rosoff's began. It's a remarkable swansong for Peet and an outstanding piece of storytelling from Rosoff. The Scotsman How much of this is Peet and how much Rosoff is left an open question. What really matters is that this novel definitely comes off, with its softening of tone towards the end balanced by the graphic cruelty that has gone before. Books for Keeps [...] powerful, vividly told, beautifully written collaboration Shelf Awareness Hardship shapes Beck's life. Born in 1908 to an Irish mother and African father, he finds the world to be unwelcoming to people of mixed race, especially poor ones. After his parents die, he is shipped overseas to the predatory Catholic Brothers in Canada, and suffers grave abuses at the hands of those who were supposed to protect him. From there, Beck experiences one privation after another. Even in the midst of his misery, Beck continues his search for a place of belonging. He finally believes he has found it in Grace, a "troublesome woman from a long line of troublesome women" who offers shelter when he needs it most. This book tackles big issues: racism, sexual abuse by clergy members, poverty, and examines the effects of childhood trauma on developing adults. The plot is driven by Beck's need for security and acceptance, and his traumatic past influences the brooding tone of the novel. A well-written work on a difficult topic, this book would be best introduced with a trigger warning. School Library Connection "[..] a beautifully written novel. Rosoff shakes off her whimsy to write in spare and powerful prose. [...] Year nine and above, male or female, school librarians, teachers, adults, read this moving and memorable novel." SLA "[...] exquisitely written novel" People magazine "From the very first pages it's clear we are in the hands of a master storyteller (or two; as explained in an appended note, Rosoff finished the novel after Peet' death). The vibrancy, earthiness, and originality of the prose is startling; the spot-on dialogue adds to the immediacy; secondary characters are vividly portrayed. There are no wasted words, no too-lengthy descriptive passages; yet somehow we see, smell, experience everything." The Horn Book Magazine He barely speaks along the way, but Peet and Rosoff use such poignant and stark language that readers can feel the power and shifting meaning of his different silences. In the end, it's a love story; not about how two people fall in love, but how one person - despite startling hardship - can finally feel worthy and open enough to accept love. The Globe and Mail
Mal Peet's first novel, Keeper, won the Branford Boase Award and the Bronze Nestle Children's Book Prize; Tamar won the Carnegie Medal; and Exposure was the winner of the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. A writer and illustrator, Mal produced many books for children throughout his lifetime, most of them in collaboration with his wife, Elspeth Graham. He also wrote a critically acclaimed adult novel, The Murdstone Trilogy. Meg Rosoff is the award-winning author of How I Live Now, which won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and the Branford Boase Award. Her second novel, Just in Case, won the Carnegie Medal and her other books include Picture Me Gone and Jonathan Unleashed, her first novel for adults. She is the winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Meg lives in London and you can follow her on Twitter @megrosoff.