The story: Loo has spent her life travelling the country with her father, never staying in one place for too long and always ready to pack up and go at a moment’s notice. Samuel Hawley, her father, has a dangerous past – one that’s written across his body in scars. When they attempt to settle down in the hometown of Loo’s mother, resistance from the local community causes problems for them both. As Loo grows up and struggles to fit in and become her own person, she also has to reconcile her idealistic childhood views of her father with the man that he used to be, and the man that he’s become.
My views: I really enjoyed this book. The format – which is made up of stories of Samuel’s past and how he came to get each of his twelve bullet scars, interspersed with the story of Loo’s present as she attempts to deal with bullying, boys and an absent mother – worked really well and kept me gripped.
Samuel is unapologetic about his past. He knows that he’s made some bad decisions and chosen a dubious path on numerous occasions, with repercussions that have affected not just himself but also his daughter. He may not have been the model father, but he’s fiercely protective of Loo, and has turned his life around to raise her as best he can. As she grows up and starts to question him, he’s forced to deal with the fact that she’s no longer a child but a young woman capable of making her own decisions and her own mistakes.
Loo in turn is tough and stubborn. She lashes out when provoked and struggles to keep her emotions in check. But behind this outward persona she’s clearly vulnerable and dealing with a whole range of emotions. She’s been raised entirely by her father, who keeps a shrine to her mother in the bathroom wherever they go. She wants to find out who her mother really was and how and why she disappeared from her life, but that’s a story that only Samuel can tell.
For the most part, the structure of the book worked well, although I felt like there were a few pacing issues in the middle. There’s also a lot of violence, anger and crime. Samuel is a somewhat shady character and in some lights Loo could be seen as a challenging teenage troublemaker. Despite that though, I really connected with both of them. The author has created two really well rounded characters and never judges them for their choices. Instead we get a real insight into who they are and the challenges they face.