My Mum and I lived in a cottage about half an hour outside town.
It hasn’t been easy finding a home that met all our requirements: in the country, no neighbours, three bedrooms, front and back gardens; a property that was old (it had to have character) but at the same time had all the mod cons – a modern central-heating system was essential, as we both hated to be cold. It had to be quiet. It had to be private. We were mice, after all. We weren’t looking for a home. We were looking for a place to hide.
Shelley is nearly sixteen, and home-schooled by tutors paid for by the education system that failed her. She and her mum have fled the city to live in an isolated English country cottage to escape horrific bullying. Surely now they can relax in the safety of their new home. But the isolation of their cottage proves both a blessing and a burden. When they encounter an intruder, Shelley’s response is spontaneous and has far-reaching consequences. She has had enough of being a mouse. But nothing in her past could prepare Shelley for what happens next. She and her mother are unalterably changed by this random encounter.
‘Mice’ tells Shelley’s story in first person, so it’s not always clear how flawed her perceptions are of what’s happening around her. But the reader can feel her confusion, fear and shame, and quickly empathises with her and her mother. Mice doesn’t draw a pretty picture of the confident, the ‘successful’ characters. They are cruel and manipulative, secretive and vindictive, all the while managing to convince most of their peers that they are innocent of any wrong-doing. Mice shows how easily bullies can escape the consequences of their actions. ‘Mice’ is a gripping novel that will have readers holding their breath as they turn each page. Recommended for mature middle- and upper-secondary readers.
Mice, Gordon Reece Allen & Unwin 2012 ISBN: 9781742379173
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
Available in good bookstores or Mice.