Review published on March 13, 2017.
The cover of this novel might well have put me off in a bookshop or library. It shouts out chick lit, although the first few pages show 17-year-old Lauren (known as Ren) finding herself being set up as a bench beside the Thames.
It is an innovative idea, especially when Ren realises certain people can hear her voice through the bench. She becomes upset and hates her inability to communicate with her boyfriend Gabe, who never visits the bench.
But when neighbouring bench occupant Lionel makes contact, his more worldly wise approach from an older generation connects with Ren as they both try to unravel the mystery behind Ren’s death. What really happened? Did someone deliberately kill her?
Visits by friends and family help but also frustrate Ren as she panics that her form within the slats of the wooden bench is not holding up to the truth she wishes to uncover.
This book may easily fit into the Young Adult fiction genre – the language/slang and Ren’s interest in exploring love, drinking, parties, and music even through her own singing voice and new cultures would appeal to younger readers.
But the fascinating relationship with Lionel and the understanding of violent death and subsequent grief carry across all generations.
This would be a good discussion aid to issues raised in schools and colleges, but equally book clubs would find it fascinating.
I was not familiar with this author, whose previous thriller I Came to Find a Girl gained success in 2015 , but I predict this will find a wider audience and many fans.
Philipa Coughlan 4/4
My Life as a Bench by Jaq Hazell
Nowness Books 9780995726819 Jul 2017