Tuesday, January 04, 2011

REVIEW: Being Billy by Phil Earle

Being Billy
by Phil Earle
Pages: 272
Publisher: Puffin
Publication Date: 6th January 2011

Faces flashed before my eyes. And for every face there was a time that they had let me down. Each punch that landed was revenge, my chance to tell them I hadn’t forgotten what they did. Eight years in a care home makes Billy Finn a professional lifer. And Billy’s angry – with the system, the social workers, and the mother that gave him away. As far as Billy’s concerned, he’s on his own. His little brother and sister keep him going, though they can’t keep him out of trouble. But he isn’t being difficult on purpose. Billy’s just being Billy. He can’t be anything else. Can he?

Billy is fifteen years old. He was abandoned by his mother a long time ago, because she has problems with drinking alcohol.  Billy lives in a home with his younger brother and sister who are twins, and lots of other kids. They are still in contact with their now sober 'I-have-changed' mother, but it's only at her sessions with the twins when things go well.
   Louie and Lizzie are the only thing that matters to Billy, and when he overhears his carers talking about the twins going home to live with their mother and Billy being left behind, his life comes crashing down. Billy's all alone.

Reading on, we start to see how vulnerable and angry Billy really is. He's not really that tough inside, and the cracks are beginning to show. We follow Billy's life as he tries to deal with his hate for school, careworkers who are constantly on his case and his troubled past. What Billy wants us to see as him not caring about the situation, what's actually happening is that he cares to much about it. And its eating him alive.

From the very first page I found myself able to identify with Billy. He was such a great character, with a voice that shines bright in the sky, I'd like to praise Phil Earle for that. I'd see why you'd find him quite hard to read though, all the anger he has hides away many other emotions he's feeling a lot of the time. 

The novel highlights things that most people will probably still be in the dark about. The things your parents don't necessarily always tell you about. It's books like Being Billy that make me feel appreciative that I have parents who love me and care for me, and that I have a nice home to live in and people to talk to. And guilty for sometimes taking advantage of all the privileges I have that he doesn't. Everybody thinks they know about being in care, fostering, having to live with ten other kids, but really, nobody knows a thing, that's what reading Being Billy showed me. I mean, everything I know about being a lifer I learnt from watching countless episodes of Tracy Beaker!

I'm just going to add that I really liked the relationship between Billy and Ronnie. Seeing it through Billy's eyes at the beginning made us believe that Ronnie was just another person whose 'job' it is to watch over the kids and keep them in line, but the situation is much more complex and Ronnie's feelings towards Billy are stronger. I'm glad he was around. I won't say much more because I want everybody to experience it for themselves.

I loved every second of Being Billy. Reading it very so real, and my eyes were practically flooding for Billy. I wasn't expecting it to be this good heartbreaking.

Being Billy is a beautiful novel that pulls on your heart strings. I'd highly recommend it to all. Thank you to the lovely people at Puffin for sending me this copy for review. It's out on Thursday, but I'm aware that it's already begun to appear in shops, what are you waiting for?!



  1. Awww it sounds like you really enjoyed it Iffath, Bahahaha Tracy Beaker, those were the days! :D

  2. I think I'm going to really like this, but find it a little hard. I never really liked Tracey Beaker for the ridiculous image of care homes it projected (I do have experience). Fab review Iffath.


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