New girl, Ella, is struggling to make friends at school. Not only is she trying to hide her eczema, she also has a secret which her mother is determined no one must know. When she is singled out by Lydia- the most popular girl in the school- Ella can't believe her luck and hopes that things will get better. However, it quickly becomes clear that Lydia's friendship comes at a price. Is it one that Ella is prepared to pay?
This is such a good book! The first person narrative allows the reader to share Ella's thoughts as she struggles with the choices she has to make. Her confusion and vulnerability, her desperation to fit in and find friends are all brilliantly shared as Ella tries to navigate her way through. Everyone experiences these feelings at one time or another and Cath Howe has captured them perfectly here. When Ella commits a horribly intrusive and disloyal act of betrayal, the reader should detest her, yet is forced to ask themselves how they might have acted in this situation.
The book also raises other significant issues- parents in prison, mental health, child carers- but never does this feel like an 'issues' book. It is a compelling story with well developed characters and a satisfying conclusion. Short chapters interspersed with letters to Ella's dad keep the plot moving at a pleasing pace; Ella is a very likeable character who makes a poor choice, but you can't help rooting for her and hoping that Lydia will be put in her place.
Excellent for starting discussions, 'Ella on the Outside' is a brilliant story, perfect for the 'Moving On' category!
Ella on the Outside Cath Howe
Nosy Crow ISBN: 978-1788000338
You can read another review of 'Ella on the Outside' here.