Stone Cold

Stone Cold was written by Robert Swindells, who won a Carnegie medal for it. Swindells trained as a teacher, and taught for eight years before becoming a full time writer. This has obviously helped him to be familiar with his target audience, teenagers. Some of Swindells personal beliefs shine through the text,
“I am dedicated to the idea that we are all responsible for one another, and that we ought to conduct ourselves accordingly, doing no harm to any human being. My work reflects this belief” Stone Cold was written by Robert Swindells, who won a Carnegie medal for it. Swindells trained as a teacher, and taught for eight years before becoming a full time writer. This has obviously helped him to be familiar with his target audience, teenagers. Some of Swindells personal beliefs shine through the text,“I am dedicated to the idea that we are all responsible for one another, and that we ought to conduct ourselves accordingly, doing no harm to any human being. My work reflects this belief”This quote appears in the front of the book, and clearly states the authors aim. Certainly, in the story, there are lots of people who could help Link, the lead character, but fail to do so. Some of these times mimic what we as the public often do, making us think about our own actions. Most of us at one time or another, have walked past a homeless person without helping. We also make judgements about how they ended up there. Surely it must be their fault? Aren’t all homeless people on drink or drugs? Of course they are not, but many people think so, and images portrayed in the media back up these assumptions. This novel goes some way towards correcting that approach.The novel is written in a dual narrative, with a distinct language style for each perspective. The first voice is that of Link, a homeless teenager, who tells us straight away“You can call me Link. It’s not my name, but it’s what I say when anybody asks, which isn’t often. I’m invisible see?”This lets us into his world right from the start, and creates empathy for the character, as well as curiosity over how he came to that situation. Link’s story is revealed in snippets as we read the novel. Pages in the Link voice are written in a casual diary entry style, with plenty of rhetorical questions. This lets the reader feel that that know Link, and that they are on this journey with him. It helps to make the story personal to the reader.The second perspective is “Shelter”, also not the characters real name, “I’m getting used to my name. Breaking it in like a pair of new boots”. Pages from this voice are written in a different style. Each section is labelled “daily routine orders” with a corresponding number. They are short, even terse at times, but with an organised point.

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They have military sounding words and phrases such as “tour of inspection” and “passing out parade”. Shelters attitude to what he calls “the street people” is also clear when he says they “make the place look manky”. Shelters personal mission is to clean them up, “I’d change you, my lad, if I had you in khaki for six weeks”.Several of the characters are found to be using nicknames or false names. This reflects the loss of identity in some of the characters, and a sense of shame at their situation, a disconnection from society. This is backed dup with the feeling that they are the invisible people. For other characters, the false name is a way of getting access to what they want. Shelter want access to homeless people, for own reasons. So does Gail, who wants access to the homeless community so that she can dig up a good story. The fact that these characters use homeless people for personal gain of one sort or another further shows the nonentity and disconnection of the homeless. They are seen as somehow less that us, a commodity. All this dishonesty and hiding of one’s self is in direct contrast to the realism an detail of the story. In real life, humans are always trying to project an image that is different to their own, for many reasons. This makes the characters seem even more real to us readers.Without wanting to give too much of the plot away for anyone who wants to read the novel, things are not as they seem. We find out more about Shelter and his mental state, and we find out how he connects to Link, leaving Link in grave danger. The story is told with realism and grit, and Swindells is not afraid to include details that most books aimed at children would exclude. In this novel we see desperate people, and we find out what can happen to these people. There is no magic wand waving, fairy tale ending where all suddenly becomes right with the world. This is not how it works in real life, and therefore, that is not how Swindells chose to end the story.

The details and content of the story serve to make the reader think about what is happening around them. I know I question things when I read it, and thanked my lucky stars that none of those things had ever happened to me or mine. It is human nature to do so. I also think that Swindells is a keen student of human nature, as every aspect of the novel could be happening now, on a street near one of us. Every character behaves in away that some we will know behaves. Or perhaps, we even see a part of ourselves in the actions of a character. This is part of the writer’s talent, and I hugely admire his skill in doing so.

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Category: Review

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