by Kate Rigby
Set in small-town England in the 1970s. Daryl Wainwright is the Thalidomide Kid--the youngest in a family of delinquents and petty criminals, he was born without arms, his hands attached directly to his shoulders, because his mother took Distaval when she was pregnant. Celia Burkett is the quiet younger daughter of the local comprehensive school assistant head. They meet at the end of primary school and become unlikely best friends. As they continue to comprehensive school (middle & high school) their friendship blossoms into love.
Despite the title, the book is as much about Celia as it is about Daryl. She feels stifled by her role as the assistant head's daughter, and all the expectations that brings, from her classmates, teachers, and family. Her father does not want Celia hanging around with Daryl, not because of his disability, but because of his low-class, criminal background. He can't see what Celia does, that Daryl's goofy, joking exterior hides great inner strength and integrity. But if Celia can't be with Daryl, she will find other ways to rebel.
I really enjoyed this book, even though it's a bit heartbreaking. The details of the time and place are good, and the writing is terrific, a gritty style that depicts the early teen years without sentimentality. There is a lot of British slang, but if you've ever watched British TV shows or read Harry Potter it's easy to understand. The awkward romance between Daryl and Celia is very sweet and moving.
I found the dev factor pretty high, although there could have been more scenes explaining how Daryl does things. Celia is definitely attracted to him because of his disability. Recommended!