Does every happy-ever-after have to be a romance?
October 19th 2021
Why does every happy-ever-after always have to be a romance?
A very good question which debut author Kirsty Capes asked herself when writing her novel, Careless.
In fact, she sought to tackle another two common stereotypes to boot: that female friendships are always toxic and inherently combative; and that the care system and the people who are its products, are always negative. A n alumnus of the care system herself and holding a day job at Mills & Boon, Kirsty felt like she was in a pretty good place to tackle both issues. By day she was reading gorgeous, swoony romances but all of them were centred around the progress of romantic relationships. And by night, when she came to research for her novel, she found that when it comes to portrayals of children in care in literature – well, beyond Tracy Beaker, there isn’t much for a start and what’s there in books and TV seems to doggedly paint only negative stereotypes and systemic failures.
Kirsty will have the chance soon to put both those things to rights, as she’s recently struck a TV deal with the makers of BBC One’s Call The Midwife . We couldn’t be more delighted for her or more in anticipation of the series. The novel follows teenage girl, Bess, living with her foster parents and their biological daughter. At the start of the novel, she finds out (in a grimy kebab shop toilet) that she’s pregnant. The decision whether to keep the baby or not follows her through the novel, alongside Boy, the baby’s father, and best friend Eshal.
We can 100% see why our guest curator, Pandora Sykes, chose this for her Special Pick this May. It’s a stunning story, emotionally intelligent, boundary-pushing and completely unforgettable.
at times very funny, this is an emotionally fearless novel packed full of love. As easy, beautiful read. Extremely well-crafted under tuition from Booker winner, Bernardine Evaristo.
The long and short of it is this: it’s the kind of day where the heat sticks plimsolls to tarmac and I’m standing in the toilet in the Golden Grill kebab shop with a pregnancy test stuff ed into my backpack.
I’m waiting for my best friend Eshal. The toilet is not a cubicle but a single room with dirty magnolia tiles that need regrouting and oily lipstick smears on the mirror. The metallic smell of periods is clogging the air and my forehead is damp with sweat. My face watches me from the mirror, distorted by the cherry-coloured imprints of puckered lips, my skin the colour of tiles, too much eyeliner smudged around my eyes and a thin sheen of moisture coating my upper lip.
The first thing I ever learned about my biological mother is that she was very into astrology. Th e zodiac. I have a pattern of freckles on my lower back, which, if you look at in a certain way, resembles the Big Dipper, and I wonder whether she has the same constellation on her own body.
When I was born, I was already dead. I left the womb with my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. Had my mother hoped I would never come back to life?
I wonder whether or not it’s time to do the pregnancy test; whether I really counted the days right, whether I’m even late at all, or if this is some gross trick my brain is playing on me, addled by the smell of chip fat in the kebab shop. I turn the limescale-encrusted taps back on and splash water over my face.
I think about Boy. What he would think if he saw me now. Sometimes Boy drives us to Chertsey, one town over, and we climb up to the spot on St Ann’s Hill with the bricked-in observation deck, and we make bets about who can get down faster, and we run so hard I feel like my legs will swing out from under me and I’ll break all my teeth on the ground, and he always wins because his legs are so long and much stronger than mine, which are pudgy from too much sleep and too many kebabs. And when it’s autumn, he picks up leaves and twirls the stems between his thumb and forefinger before giving them to me. But we haven’t done that for a while now.
Such an elegant and empathic book, with characters I feel I've known forever. A portrait of how it feels to be young, brazen and terrified.' - Jessica Moor, author of Keeper
'I am so proud of my super-talented former student, Kirsty Capes. I'm so impressed with how her writing has flourished with the cracking characters and energetic prose of her fantastic debut novel.' - Bernardine Evaristo
'The literary equivalent of gold dust.' - Benjamin Zephaniah
'Moving and beautifully-written - a voice and a story that needs to be heard.' - Libby Page, author of The Lido
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Vicki & The LoveMyRead Team x