Review: Furious Thing by Jenny Downham

Anger was something to believe in when the world let her down. Furious Thing roars with justifiable anger at an unfair world, as one girl fights to claim back the spaces that belong to her and battles to be heard…

Lexi’s angry. And it’s getting worse. If only she could stop losing her temper and behave herself, her step-father would accept her, her mum would love her like she used to and her step-brother would declare his crushing desire to spend the rest of his life with her.

She wants these things so badly she determines to swallow her anger and make her family proud. But pushing fury down doesn’t make it disappear. Instead, it simmers below the surface waiting to erupt. There’ll be fireworks when it does.

Furious Thing is the new YA novel from Jenny Downham, best known for her powerful book Before I Die, which was the basis of the 2012 teen movie, Now Is Good. Now, she’s back with a new story focusing on women’s rage as told through the eyes of our protagonist Lexi, who just cannot stop getting angry and misbehaving.

On the surface, Lexi comes across as your typical stroppy teen. She argues with her step-dad, upsets her mum, causes trouble at school, and despite trying to change her ways, always seems to be the cause of every disaster which unfolds within the book. Her behaviour causes so much embarrassment to the family, that her step-dad John insists that she sees a doctor, claiming that she’s actually “mentally unstable”

However, it’s soon clear to see that Lexi isn’t the one suffering from issues after all. From fairly early on in the book, it’s evident that John is indeed the root of all evil as he not only reacts angrily to every little thing that Lexi does with no reason, but he also undermines Lexi’s mother too. As Lexi realises what is happening around her, we find ourselves rooting for her and her family as she tries to get everyone to see what a cruel man John really is.

Furious Thing is an important story about gaslighting, something which is becoming far more open and prevalent in today’s society. Described as “manipulating (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity”, John – despite appearing as the lovely family man to others – is gaslighting both Lexi and her mum. The book confidently explores this complex emotional issue and gets it right on so many levels – there’s no doubt that others will be able to relate to the story told.

The main downfall of this book is a sub-plot in which Lexi is madly in love with her step-brother Kass. Not only is there the obvious issue of them practically being related, albeit not through blood, but there’s the also an age issue, with Lexi being 15 and still in school doing her GCSE’s whilst Kass  is in University. There are several awkward scenes within the book, including Lexi stripping off and making a pass at Kass. In all honesty, it’s just uncomfortable and really doesn’t add anything to the overall plot.

Lexi’s friendship with her classmate Ben is far more interesting. Whilst he doesn’t appear in the book all that much, his character has a positive influence on Lexi and ultimately helps her to turn a corner as he shares his belief in her. He helps her to find her voice and encourages her to spread her wings and fly.

A strong message to take away from Furious Thing is the importance of fighting back. With the likes of Greta Thunberg making her mark in the world right now, the book highlights the fact that sometimes we do indeed have a cause to be angry and that it’s vital that we take a stand and make some noise.

Whilst the book isn’t without its flaws, it’s definitely a poignant read which will resonate with many young girls and hopefully encourage them to take charge and fight against everything that’s unfair in this world.

Furious Thing is available on October 3rd.

Thank you to David Fickling Books for providing an advance copy.

Let us know your thoughts on Furious Thing by Jenny Downham on Twitter @Fuzzable

 

Written by Katrina

twenty-something charity shop manager and aspiring journalist with a penchant for boybands. Email: katrinanaomirees@gmail.com

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