The Tightrope Walkers

by David Almond

Dominic Hall is the only child in his working-class, East Anglian family in the 1950s.... read more

Dominic Hall is the only child in his working-class, East Anglian family in the 1950s. His best friend is middle class Holly Stroud. The two greatly loved children are both gifted artists. Vincent McAlinden is all tough and rumble, a boy with a harsh life and often feared by other kids. Rich, complex, satisfying storytelling centers on Dom, but follows the fate of all three from childhood through adolescence to young adulthood in the 1960s. Dom’s gift as a writer sets him apart from his parents and others, including the men he eventually works with inside the great tankers being built—men who may not think as deeply as Dom but whose goodness and tenderness shine. The divide is poignant at times, yet Dom knows he is no better than others, just different, and he sometimes wonders, “Why me?” Vincent’s roughness, with vulnerability at its core, turns brutal as he grows, his self-loathing complicated by being gay in a time and place where there are no models or support. And Holly, increasingly haunted by the fate of her mentally ill mother, is determined to pursue rather than stifle her own artistic dreams. Everything feels like a balancing act as Dom and Holly work to meet the future on their own terms, with Vincent a shadow that they can’t shake. A deeply thoughtful, unflinching novel features multidimensional characters who grow and change and challenge at every turn (Vincent is both sympathetic and terrifying, for example), and dizzying, beautiful language. (Age 15 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2016

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