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Writing in the Sand

It would be easier if I didn’t have to pretend all the time. I can only imagine what it must be like, not worrying about saying the wrong thing. Not having to tell half-truths.

I don’t need to pretend to be happy. I am happy most  of the time. I’ve got my mum, Kirsty’s a brilliant friend,   we live by the sea, GCSEs will soon be over, and it’s nearly summertime. What’s not to be happy about?

What I’d love most, though, would be to feel normal more often. Like now.

Revising GCSE Geography might sound boring. But to me, sitting in Kirsty’s bedroom sharing her laptop, it’s a good feeling. It’s what I think of as normal – and I take  a moment to let it wash over me.

Kirsty’s fingers move over the keys and the screen fills with diagrams, then explanations on cyclones. But I’ve stopped concentrating. Screwing my eyes up, the flat yellow and blue in the diagram on screen turns into warm sand and blue sea, and though I ought not to – and only for a moment – I let myself run along a beach in Australia with Liam.

Kirsty says, “Here, this could be important—” She breaks off. “You’re not even listening, are you?”

“Sorry.” Then I say, “It’s Liam’s birthday.”

She pushes the laptop away. “Today? I didn’t realize.”

I sigh. “No reason why you should.”

“Does it still hurt?”

“Not like it did.”

Kirsty’s fingers hover over the keys, and though I can’t honestly think why he’d email on his birthday, I say, “D’you mind?”

“Mind what?”

“Seeing if there’s anything for me.”

“Sure.” The diagrams disappear and she brings up my email login, keying in my password as if it’s her own. We stare at the empty inbox, and she says gently, “Shall we call it a day?”

I push back my chair and stretch. “Okay.”

I’m following her downstairs when she says, “You didn’t send him a card, did you?”

I shrug. “I thought about it. But we made a clean break, so…” I jump down the last two stairs. “You know what it’s like.”

She gives a short laugh. “I do.” She gives me a quick hug. “It’ll get better, Amy. Honestly.”

The house is unusually quiet, with no sign of Kirsty’s parents. I glance towards the kitchen. “I thought your mum and dad would be back by now.”

“They’re duvet-hunting.”

I laugh, and she says, “Plus other stuff – in the sales. New kids arriving tomorrow.”

I often wonder how it is for Kirsty, with her mum’s foster kids needing such a lot of attention. Sometimes it’s like the house is bursting at the seams. A complete contrast to my situation. Just me and Mum.

“How many kids?”

She looks mock-guilty. “I forgot to ask.”

I make for the front door. “Oh well, you’ll soon find out.”

She puts her head on one side. “Can’t you stop for coffee?”

“Better not, I left a pile of washing-up. Mum’ll wonder where I am.”

“She knows where you are.”

“Yeah, but still…I’d better go.” I pull open the door. “Thanks again. Don’t know what I’d do without you.”

She grins. “Any time.”

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16-year-old Amy is used to keeping secrets – about her mum’s illness, her irresponsible sister and about her ex-boyfriend Liam. But now Amy has a secret that cannot be kept. Should she tell the truth about the abandoned baby or keep quiet and live a lie... for ever.

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Book information

Key Stage
Lexile Measure
Accelerated Reader level
4.5 UY
ISBN: 9781409563914
Extent: 320 pages
Dimensions: 198 x 130mm

Author information

Helen Brandom

A former primary school teacher, Helen Brandom has written numerous plays, serials and drama episodes for the stage and radio, with her work broadcast on TV and BBC Radio. Writing in the Sand is her debut novel.

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Press reviews

“Written with insight, wisdom, a deep understanding of important teen issues and with extra material at the end for reading groups, this is a book to set hearts beating and minds in motion. An outstanding debut.”
“This is a beautifully written book with a captivating and heart wrenching storyline that I found difficult to put down... An outstanding debut.””
“Poignant and subtly amusing.”
“Fast-paced, realistic... it kept me interested throughout.”
“Helen Brandom’s protagonist, Amy, is a delight.”
“Deals head on with important, all-too-common teenage issues.”

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