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The Chronicles of Derek Dunstable (Susan Elkin reviews)


The Chronicles of Derek Dunstable by HG Sansostri, Tiger Publications Ltd, 2016

How many young adult novels have you read in which you can feel the author groping for the right tone and register for his or her teenage characters and getting it woefully wrong? One of young author HG Sansostri’s greatest advantages is that he’s steeped in that age-specific verbal culture because he’s only fourteen himself, The dialogue in his The Chronicles of Derek Dunstable is absolutely spot on.

So is the plotting. We first meet Derek, seriously depressed and frightening his parents, three years after a devastating experience. Most of the novel then flashes back to unravel the horror he has experienced at school when something completely unforeseen and terrifying happened. The format is not especially original but the nature of the horror is – no spoilers here. I love his characters too. The teachers are beautifully observed, Derek’s friends such as Todd, Greg and Matthew, fizz with life and so do his bickering but stable and loving parents, Sarah and Danny. We’re all met kids like the manipulative, wannabe bully, Jerome, too.

All in all then, a remarkable achievement for a 14 year old – who already has The Little Dudes’ Skool Survival Guide under his belt. The earlier book is an advice book about dealing with bullying and HG (as I understand he likes to be known) has done many school visits to promote the book and share its message. Most people would be immensely – and justifiably –  proud to have written The Chronicles of Derek Dunstable at any age. At 14 it’s extraordinary.

Of course, given the youth of the author, there are minor flaws in the writing – and I used to be an English teacher so I can’t help spotting them.  First someone has told him to use as many adjectives as possible and it gets a bit irritating sometimes. A strong, unqualified noun is just fine, HG. Similarly the words “says” or “said” work perfectly well most of the time. Careful over use of  words such as “mutters”, “screams” “bellow” “shouts” grunts” and the rest soon begin to feel laboured. And please, please, please, HG: In British English “all right” is two words.

These are however, very small reservations about an exciting read which – I’m certain – will go down very well with readers in their early teens. Warmest congratulations to the author. We’re all eagerly looking forward to your next book

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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