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Boys Don't Cry: 'I can't remember ever reading something so moving.' Marian Keyes

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I appreciated how short ‘Boys don’t cry’ was – Fionna Scarlett had a story to tell and she told it in a certain amount of pages. Boys don’t cry’ by Fíona Scarlett is the gritty and emotional tale of two Dublin brothers, 17 year old Joe and his 12 year old brother Finn, who live in a Dublin flats complex with their mother and father (occasionally), a local drug-dealing hard man. It is an emotional book and occasionally grim, with domestic violence, drugs and illness all to the fore, and such is the power of the writing that it always feels depressingly realistic. The story is told in alternative chapters from Finn’s perspective in the past, who we learn early on is ill, whilst Joe’s story takes place in the present. My only quibble with the book is that one of the storylines reached a climax and despite reading over it a couple of times, I still couldn’t work out exactly what happened.

Kids do well to overcome prejudices and access opportunities, as they’re up against it from the start. Boys don’t cry’ is also about the roles expected in societies of men – that toxic masculinity we continually hear about.I got the jist of it so it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book but I felt it could have been clearer. There’s a lot of gritty reality in this book – the flats are plagued by drug dealing, and it’s hard for youngsters not to get sucked into the lifestyle. The women in this book are also strong and fully fleshed out characters, trying to guide the boys towards better choices and providing support. Joe is determined not to, and is a promising student, but circumstances force him into some difficult choices. Both boy’s voices felt very authentic – I lived in Dublin for a bit and it was as if I was working in the North Inner city again, as the author does such a fine job of catching the humour of it.

Like I said at the start, this is an gritty and emotional book that will certainly pull at your heartstrings, but there’s also hope and warmth in there. The class divide and how Joe is treated by the Gardai were also well done – like I say, having lived in Northside Dublin, as an outsider, some of these things were always apparent.

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