Book review

Going For Stone by Philip Gross (2002)

Everybody needs somebody. You can walk out on your family, beaten and disappointed, but the first thing you will do is look round for another community of friends to join.

That's what Nick does anyway. He's on the streets, tired and hungry and alone. When he spots the stone saints he can see straight away that here is a source of income and comradeship. For in this city human statues perform in the streets. You've probably stood and watched one yourself. I know I have. All you need to get started is an act, and a pitch. Of course, Nick isn't particularly welcome at the drop-in for drop-outs. After all, they are all business rivals, but Swan speaks to him, eventually:

'I'm serious,' I said. 'I need to do something - I mean, really need to. I think I could do this.'
'Don't,' she said. Her eyes, now she was looking at me straight, were a very pale grey. 'Where are you from?'
'Not round here.'
'Uh-huh. Got a roof over your head?'
'Only just. I've got to do something.'
'Beg,' she said. It wasn't exactly a smile that crossed her face, but it had softened. She noticed my reaction, too.
'Don't worry,' she said, 'it's quite normal nowadays. You make more money. There's no future in this.' She began to turn away.
'That's not what the Tin Man said. He seemed to think there were ... openings.' She had looked back now; her eyes narrowed. 'He said there were talent scouts out there. He said Watchers ...'

Now, what kind of opening could there be for a street theatre human statue? And what, exactly, might the Watchers be watching for?

Nick finds out soon enough. He meets a Watcher, and, along with the Swan, he is selected for the mysterious Academy. It's a strangely unsettling place. Several times Nick is tempted to make a break for freedom, but can never quite bring himself to abandon Swan. She, on the other hand, is happy with the way things are going. She thinks she is on her way to the big time, and she has settled into the community. That's what's so seductive - the community, friends, and the promise of a brilliant career.

It's an excruciating business, working out what exactly is happening at the Academy. Nick is slow, but I was slower. I can tell you, I was utterly spooked by this book. I simply couldn't predict even what the story was about, never mind how it would end, and my heart thudded every time I turned over a page.

Highly recommended! Straight into my Top Ten List. Easily the most frightening book I have ever read.

What can I read next?

Excellent story! I look forward to reading more from Philip Gross.

If you like horror stories, you might be tempted by this truly awful prediction of the future by Rachel Anderson:

But it is the realism of Philip Gross' writing which really fascinates. If you are interested in the theme of vulnerable young people and the dangers of living on the streets, I think you might like to read this one by Melvin Burgess:

Or this achingly well-written story about domestic violence, by David Klass:

Finally, you might like to look at this story of a young boy in care by Malachy Doyle:

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

Going For Stone features in these lists: