On the Bookshelf...

The Crossing

Manjeet Mann

A trailblazing new novel about two teenagers from opposite worlds; The Crossing is a profound story of hope, grief, and the very real tragedies of the refugee crisis. Natalie's world is falling apart. She's just lost her mum and her brother marches the streets of Dover full of hate and anger. Swimming is her only refuge. Sammy has fled his home and family in Eritrea for the chance of a new life in Europe. Every step he takes on his journey is a step into an unknown and unwelcoming future. A twist of fate brings them together and gives them both hope. But is hope enough to mend a broken world?

How do you even begin to describe The Crossing by Manjeet Mann? This was one of the most moving fiction books I've read in a long time. The way the book is written in narrative voice rather than by prose. The way the voice moves between the two main protagonists using a common word. The emotions that you feel all the way through. The obstacles that they both face in their worlds. The big explosive ending that if it doesn't reduce you to tears you have no heart. This book is as near perfection as it's possible to read. As a sign of our times, it's a chilling indictment of our governments cruel policies.

It takes a clever author to immerse the reader whole heartedly in the minds of the two main characters. Yet Manjeet manages it. At first, I thought I'd struggle with the books structure, but that soon passed after a few pages. The way the speech passes between the two storytellers is so clever and soon seems seamless as you inhabit the heads of Nat and Sammy. This is world class YA fiction, yet it shouldn't just be read by teenagers but by a wider audience.

This book is a window of our times. A story about love and acceptance. A story about how certain people in our society try to drive blocks between us. How hate speech has tragic consequences. It doesn't preach one side or the other but allows us to see behind the drapes. How hate can drive a family apart. Manjeet is a master at not having to over explain. You feel the love both Sammy and Nat have for their families. They've both lost parents before the story starts. Sammy has to flee his home for fear of his life. Nat has to rebuild her when her mother dies.

The subject matter is the small boat crossings in the English Channel by refugees hoping for a better life in the UK. It's a devisive subject yet shouldn't be. The UK has opened its arms to those in need in the past. Yet now those fleeing war torn countries like Sammy have to risk their lives to find a safe place. There is no easy answer to the issue, yet we are punishing those who are in need. This book nicely encapsulates the problem.

Throughout the book are moments when you have to put down the pages and wipe away the tears. The ending when it comes is another. I didn't see it coming. I'd worked out an ending in my head and the book one just destroyed me inside. This is a book all politicians should read. I hope schools have picked it up for class reads. It'd be the start of great conversations about the refugee issue.

A book I'll keep returning to. A five star read.

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Review by
AJ Steel
March 24, 2023

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