Book Review of ‘Needle’ by Patrice Lawrence

Charlene has never apologised to anyone in her life. But when her freedom is suddenly put at stake, can she bring herself to say sorry and not mean it? Award-winning author Patrice Lawrence explores the harsh reality of the criminal justice system in this riveting teen drama.

The image shows the front cover of Needle by Patrice Lawrence

What a great read! I can’t wait to introduce my students to this novel – I know that some of them are going to really see themselves in its main character, and will enjoy this fast-paced, empathetic telling of Charlene’s story.

I was so relieved to find out that the ‘needle’ in the title refers to knitting needles rather than syringes or knives, and also surprised to find out that it is Charlene, the main character, who is an enthusiastic knitter. (Not enough characters in books for teens craft!)

Charlene is a complicated character though – she lives in foster care after the death of her mother, and is separated from the sister who means the world to her. Charlene hangs out with people who are bad influences on her, and prevent her from having the stable life that she craves. She gets angry and lashes out. What I love about this book is that it isn’t ‘preachy’ or didactic, and it’s main character is throughly human. Charlene knows that she makes mistakes, and listens to advice even though she doesn’t always feel that she can follow it.

One thing that I love about this book, like so many of those published by Barrington Stoke, is that it is succinct and uncomplicated without ‘dumbing down’ on the character’s motivations or feelings. In the school library, I house these books in a ‘quick reads’ section rather than ‘easy reads’ – they may be short, and the reading ages may be lower than most YA fiction, but the interest level is certainly not.

Some days, we all just like to get to the ‘good bits’ of a story without having a huge cast of characters and loads of subplot. ‘Needle’ does this beautifully, and you’ll find it a rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish.

‘Needle’ is due to be published by Barrington Stoke on 5th May 2022. Thank you to NetGalley and Barrington Stoke for this ARC in return for my honest review.

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