Book review

Up On Cloud Nine by Anne Fine (2002)

Stolly and Ian have been friends for almost as long as they can remember. And they are as different from each other as they possibly could be. It's a case of 'opposites attract'. Ian is practical and reliable. If you need a job to be done, Ian is your man. Stolly, on the other hand, spends his life Up On Cloud Nine.

Stolly is a dreamer, but the world that he inhabits is a rather dangerous one. Sometimes his notions can be sweet and fanciful, but they can also be menacing:

'I'm no damp squib. My spirits rise on frosty mornings, or thudding down hills at top speed. But Stol sees glory everywhere. We'll lie on our backs, sun spangling our eyes, and Stol will say, 'This is perfection, Ian. This is the perfect moment. I am perfectly happy.'
'It's all right, isn't it?' I'll agree, thinking of the sandwiches waiting in my schoolbag. (Nothing as good as Mr Olivers's stuffed olive ciabatta, but good enough for me.) And Stol will prose on:
'No, seriously, Ian. This is the very best moment of my life. I am so perfectly happy I could die.'

It's a good job Stolly has Ian to keep an eye on him.

' ... for some years now I've been ambling round behind Stol, pointing out books that need taking to lessons, or homework that ought to be finished by Friday. I tap my watch when it's time for his violin lesson. I make sure we drift round the back in time for the swimming bus. The only thing that's an effort is remembering, when I get home, that I have to knock off a bit or I get the lecture from Mum.

Actually, it seems to take more than just Ian to keep an eye on Stolly. Stolly spends almost as much time round at Ian's home, being looked after by Ian's Mum, as he spends round at his own home. Stolly's parents are both pre-occupied by their jobs and generally leave him to his own devices much of the time.

Consequently, nobody was there to see what happened when he fell out of the upstairs window. As Ian and his Mum sit by his hospital bedside, waiting for him to regain consciousness and start hurting, Ian reflects on the impact that Stolly has on the lives of everyone around him. And he writes it all down in a kind of impromptu biography.

Ah! But here is Ian's masterstroke! As Stol groggily comes to and finds himself in the hospital bed, Ian squeezes a promise out of Stol - Stol must read the biography in exchange for Ian's help in explaining to all the enquiring authorities exactly what happened up there on the top floor of Stol's own house.

How did he actually come to fall out of the window?
We'll never know. But perhaps Stolly will take more care of himself in the future ...

'I want you to see yourself,' I told him. 'That's all. From outside. How the rest of us see you. I think, if you read it properly, and think hard about everything in it, then next time you come so close to doing something so stupid, you'll think what it would mean to the rest of us.'

This is a quick, easy read, but, as with all Anne Fine's books, it does make you think about some of the problem areas of life - and you can have a good laugh as you go. Recommended!

What can I read next?

Anne Fine has written many books, for readers of various abilities. Have a quick flick through before you start to make sure that you have picked one at the appropriate level. You might like to look at:

The relationship between Ian and Stolly reminds me rather of the relationship between the two boys in this one about graffiti by Michael Coleman:

I think you might really enjoy this one by Jan Mark about some boys who spend a week camping out at Heathrow Airport rather than tell their parents that they have been banned from the school trip:

Ian isn't the only baby to have been found in a dustbin recently. You might like to have a look at this one by Jacqueline Wilson:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

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