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♥Book of month (children): June 2023♥
(suggested) interest age: 12-15+
(suggested) reading age: 12+
Themes: Domestic violence / mental health /wellbeing / self-image / grooming /self-confidence. **Contains explicit language**
When #helynt was released back in November 2020 (wow, it feels like a lifetime ago already!) the initial reaction was fairly quiet. Rebecca was a relatively new writer, and I think this was her first novel for teens. But, gradually, more came to read about Rachel Ross's troubles, and in May 2021, #helynt won the prestigious Tir na n-Og Awards in the secondary category. (and well-deserved too!)
When a first book does that well, I'm sure there's a lot of pressure to make sure the sequel is just as good. I'm happy to say that Rachel Ross, or Rachel Calvi as she’s now known, is back to create Mwy o helynt (more trouble) (see what I did there?) IMO the author has managed to maintain some of the elements that made the first book so readable, but has expanded on Rachel’s story in such a way that it doesn’t just feel like the same old thing once again. To think that Rachel is a little older, she's not much wiser, and she's still making - and finding- plenty of trouble (just as well for us readers!)
It's hard to write reviews without spoiling the plot, and I wouldn't want to do that. This book picks up a few months after the turbulent events of the first novel. With Jason, her awful stepfather, in prison for what he did to Rachel's mum, the little family have now had to leave Rhyl. Yup, leave their lives behind and disappear somewhere to keep a low profile. I can't imagine what that would be like.
Rachel has now started college, has a boyfriend and things seem to be going well, but it’s not long before she gets her first unwise idea… sneaking back to Rhyl on some sort of rescue mission to her old house to get her possessions. There were plenty of times in the novel where I was saying to myself ‘oh no Rachel, that’s not a good idea now is it…’
In addition to some of the old characters like Shane, Gina and Medium Jim, we are introduced to some new characters. And although Rachel is an extremely perceptive, witty and capable girl, she does do some silly things sometimes. For the right reasons no doubt, but silly nonetheless. As she starts an ill-advised and inappropriate relationship with someone that should know better, the alarm bells start ringing right away for us reading…
I’ll say no more. You'll have to read for yourselves to see how Rachel comes out the other side. In light of all the media attention that ‘grooming’ has had lately, this novel feels quite timely and relevant.
I have faith in Rachel though. She's a strong character- something that was very evident in the first novel. I think ‘badass’ was the term used to describe her! She definitely isn’t going to let her disability define her. I couldn't help but think 'Go on Rachel!' when she puts Jasmine, (a rather unpleasant girl) in her place. It’s a pity we can’t bottle up that sort of confidence and sell it!
Rebecca's writing style is very readable, and the plot and language aren’t overly-complicated, making it perfect for early teenage readers. Reading it wasn’t laborious at all. I liked that there was some English in the novel because to me, it reflects the linguistic reality of North East Wales (an area that hasn’t had much attention in Welsh-language books).
I happen to know that the #helynt books are popular amongst other groups as well, and Rebecca has a firm fan base of older readers who have also enjoyed reading about Rachel’s adventures.
If Rachel's story concluded after Mwy o Helynt, then I’d be quite satisfied with that. That said, I know from the launch event that the author has a few more stories lined up for her. After a bit of an unexpected twist at the end of the novel, I'm sure there's plenty of scope for stories about Rachel Calvi, the goth from Rhyl...
"Newydd ei llarpio mewn un eisteddiad. Nid hawdd o beth ydi sgwennu mor rhwydd â hyn. Campwaith arall gan Rebecca Elizabeth Roberts." dywed Elin Llwyd Morgan am nofel diweddaraf @BeckyERoberts