I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this from the publishers on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own

Melt by Ele Fountain, cover art by unknown, published by Pushkin

This isn’t actually out til April, but hit that pre-order button as it’s one you won’t want to miss!

I always enjoy Ele’s books (you can read my reviews of Boy 87 and Lost here and here.) I’m always impressed with her ability to pack so much into such relatively short adventures (surely she’s got to do Barrington Stoke at some point??)

Quick reads they may be but the characters have depth, the settings are immersive and the plots are full of tension and heart-stopping moments. Melt was no exception.

And like her other books, there’s an environmental awareness and a touch of social commentary running through it, as we come face to face with eroded traditions and dying ways of life, melting ice caps and vanishing animals, and unscrupulous companies with greed at their heart.

As ever though, these are brilliantly threaded through the story – they enhance and give roots to the adventure rather than eclipsing it. As do the themes of friendship, family and learning from other times, places and people that we see explored too.

Set in the Arctic Circle and told from the dual narratives of Bea and Yutu, who find themselves unexpectedly thrown together to brave both elements and enemies, this is a thrilling story of survival.

Yutu lives with his grandma in a remote Arctic village. He’s desperate to follow in family tradition and hunt so sneaks away one weekend to prove himself capable. But the ice has been melting faster than he knew and with a sudden blizzard on the way, he finds himself in trouble…

Bea meanwhile lives in a busy town but has few friends thanks to always being on the move with her dad’s job. She joins her dad, who is a geologist for a big oil company, on a work trip to the area near Yutu’s home but when they arrive things are not quite what they seem and danger is waiting…

And so Bea and Yutu find themselves helping each other, on the run in perilous conditions.

I loved the way Bea and Yutu helped each other, learned from each other, gave each other confidence and courage and ultimately, of course, became friends. But I think Yutu’s grandmother, Miki, was my favourite character. And on both sides, it was nice to see present, supportive adults around.

The Arctic setting is stunningly portrayed, it is beautiful but equally unforgiving and the cold settled into my bones as I read. It was the perfect setting for this tense, fast-paced and thought-provoking thriller.

20 Books of Summer #4 – Lost

Lost by Ele Fountain

I was a huge fan of Ele Fountain’s first book, Boy 87 (a hugely under-rated upper-MG must-read if you ask me) so I was really excited about this.

We meet Lola as she searches for her brother, Amit, after they’ve become separated having suddenly found themselves homeless – street rats.

I really loved the way the book then looked back at their lives prior to this, cleverly highlighting the contrast between two very different worlds nestled side by side.

Previously, Lola and Amit were rich, comfortable and almost blind to the struggles of the less well off around them – a striking difference to the scared, starving and vulnerable children we see now facing hunger, fatigue, and police brutality amongst other things.

Their sense of entitlement and ignorance is at least marginally better than the active dislike, disapproval and superiority of their friends whose callous comments and unfeeling attitudes and actions are shocking but sadly believable.

We then follow Lola into the present, a flawed but very likeable character who I really rooted for and felt for as she desperately tried to do the right thing and take care of her brother with no real-world knowledge whatsoever.

And this is another element I thought was excellent about the book – the way it shows just how easily and suddenly homelessness can hit, how it can happen to anyone and how it’s not “their fault” through laziness or similar.

As she searches for Amit, we see her eyes gradually opened to the hardship that’s been around them all along and, perhaps even more importantly, the various reasons that led the children to be on the streets.

Through Lola we meet several “street rats” – sleeping in tunnels, working long days for pennies and no recognition, being chased away, beaten or recruited by gangs.

One of whom, Rafi, though prickly at first gradually allows Lola to get closer and helps her develop some street smarts and look for Amit. I thought he was a brilliant character and liked the way his friendship with Lola developed.

Because of this I both absolutely loved, but also inwardly cried “noooo!” at the ending! It was just right.

It’s great to see characters who grow and change their mindset as they learn more over the course of the book, though sad to see how shuttered, cruel and ignorant others choose to remain.

Highlighting the sadly all-too prevalent issues of child poverty and homelessness, this would be a great book for opening up discussion about these issues – both in the context of the book and more locally.

Overall, this is a brilliant and important book, both heartbreaking and heartwarming in turn. With a fantastic sense of place, important issues and well-drawn characters and relationships, it more than lived up to my expectations.