Reviews

AWARDS and HONOURS (UK)

  • Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Year
  • Nomination Carnegie Medal 2017

AWARDS and HONOURS (USA)

  • Junior Library Guild selection

REVIEWS

Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Year 2016

“Mal Peet, perhaps our finest young adult writer of recent years, died in 2015, leaving this book unfinished. His friend and fellow novelist Meg Rosoff completed it for him. The result is an extraordinary novel – shocking, moving and beautifully written – that is hard to categorise. It tells the story of Beck, an orphaned mixed-race boy, born in Liverpool in 1907, who is sent to Canada where he is sexually abused by ‘Christian Brothers’. Packed off to slave labour on an Ontario farm, Beck escapes, makes a slow journey of recovery and eventually finds love with a Native American woman. Despite its darkness, it has unexpected humour and is ultimately uplifting.”                                                                                Nicolette Jones, The Sunday Times Christmas children’s books round-up

“This is a hero that the reader is compelled to cheer on, while questioning how society is serving the lost Becks of today.”                                  The Observer children’s books round-up

“The gut-wrenching story of a boy searching for warmth in a cold and often hostile world. […] Beck is a fantastic character – clever, resourceful, and with an indomitable instinct for survival. You want to follow him right up to his hard-won happy ending.”        The Guardian

“This extraordinary novel is powerful, shocking, uplifting, funny and beautifully written. Every page of this book is bursting with life, observation, feeling and conviction. It is a collaboration between two remarkable writers, fusing the best of both.”        The Sunday Times Book of The Week

 

KIRKUS REVIEW (USA)

“Beck escapes institutional violence and discrimination and mends his spirit through lonely travels across the 1920s Canadian prairie.

With Rosoff working from an unfinished manuscript left behind when Peet died in 2015, the finished book is seamless. Characters’ dialogue is often rendered in earthy regional dialects, while the narrative prose is brilliantly evocative and precise, producing a sweepingly epic physical and emotional journey.

Heartbreaking, hopeful, and inspired.”

“I don’t know how much Rosoff wrote and, in a sense, it’s irrelevant because the story is so engrossing that debating the authorship of each paragraph distracts from savouring every word of this literary dish. […] The author’s language is so rich throughout and Beck’s journey told with such apparent effortlessness, this swan song deserves readers and a prize of its own.”        The Times Weekend

“When award-winning author Mal Peet died last year, he left behind an unfinished novel […] his friend and fellow writer Meg Rosoff bravely agreed to complete it. This extraordinary book is a tribute to their different but complementary talents. It’s a raw, challenging, coming-of-age story where the instinct to survive almost trumps the power of love. Peet’s wit seeps through the darkness and though Rosoff’s almost invisible hand is skilful, it reminds us of what a wonderful writer we have lost.”       Daily Mail

Beck is a beautifully written book – and though Rosoff doubtless deserves much of the credit, her real achievement is to ensure that Peet’s final novel is told in his voice, rather than in hers. […] Peet believed that books targeting teenagers “give off a strong whiff of condescension”. This one is recommended by its publishers for readers aged 14-plus, but there is no such whiff here. […] Beck has a maturity that should appeal to readers well beyond their teens. But what the book demonstrates above all is the unflagging power of Peet’s imagination.”         The Daily Telegraph

“Peet died more than a year ago, so a final novel from him is something very special indeed. […] an episodic coming-of-age drama that is powerful and harrowing but ultimately uplifting.”         The Bookseller

“His final book, almost finished at the time of his death, and completed by Rosoff at his request. It’s a powerful, harrowing and ultimately uplifting coming-of-age drama following the adventures of a mixed-race boy transported to North America.”              The Bookseller

“A compelling coming-of-age story, with an equally beautiful and brutal backstory.Eastern Daily Press

“Beck is a beautiful story, with a sad but beautiful background.” Bookwitch

 

“How much of this is Peet and how much Rosoff is left an open question. What really matters is that this novel definitely comes off, with its softening of tone towards the end balanced by the graphic cruelty that has gone before. Beck himself is a difficult, taciturn character, who has long ‘misered the cold coins of disappointment close to his heart.’ Understandably suspicious whenever things seem to be working out for him he is still able to accept his good fortune by the end, and a few if any of his readers would wish it otherwise.”      Books for Keeps

“Engrossing, overwhelming and at times shocking, Beck is an epic novel in just over 250 pages. It’s impossible to tell where Peet’s work ended and Rosoff’s began. It’s a remarkable swansong for Peet and an outstanding piece of storytelling from Rosoff.”        The Scotsman

“Peet, who won the Carnegie Medal for his 2005 novel Tamar, died last year; his friend Meg Rosoff, who finished the book, has done him proud.”        The Times

 “This powerful coming-of-age adventure set in the 1920s, is harrowing, but ultimately uplifting.” Carousel

“Best known for his award-winning, uncondescending and genre-defying teen fiction, Peet continued in Beck to expand the range of experience that could be broached in this field. […] A major achievement: a historical picaresque that doesn’t skimp on horror or romance, on all that is vicious and ugly in Beck’s world, nor the moments of home and comfort he snatches for himself.”    Sydney Morning Herald

50 Best Books for Kids 2016

This last novel by the late, great Mal Peet, seamlessly finished by Meg Rosoff, is the story of a mixed-race boy who is sent to Canada by the Christian Brothers, escapes and makes his way in the world of the Depression. Profound,memorable.”

NZ Listener        

“What a tale. The strengths of Mal Peet and Meg Rosoff merge imperceptibly in this story of a half-negro boy born on the wrong side of the sheets in Liverpool.

At the heart of this novel is the capacity of a person’s heart to change and grow, given the right conditions. There is no melodrama, no over-exaggeration; for much of this story, Beck has unforgivable challenges, but this isn’t what makes him tick. The people around him teach him to do what they need him to do, and feed him, and allow him to feel human warmth. And this is how it happens: how you grow from a husk to a person.

This is a true saga, though a relatively short book for all that. The beauty of the language is immersive, and it is a novel I can see being used within schools to talk about race, and travel, and the healing power that humans have for one another. Perhaps it will turn somebody onto the right path.”

Booksellers NZ