Sparrow, written by Scot Gardner, is the story of a lad who escapes from a detention centre due to a boating accident. He swims to shore and survives in the wild. Through this story of survival we learn about his past and how he ended up in the juvenile detention centre; through a difficult childhood where his parents were absent and then died, an abusive brother, living on the streets and ultimately ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sparrow, as he is called due to having no voice, is a strong, vulnerable, independent and kind child and adolescent who is seeking connection and acceptance. The character of Sparrow is strong and diverse – often at odds within himself about what is wrong and what is right. The people around Sparrow are well built characters – from his brother the ‘ghost boy’ who has his own trauma and sniffs paint to escape, an elderly man who helps and supports Sparrow, a fellow female inmate who also survives the boating accident and has her own tale to tell and the women who Sparrow ‘works’ for while he is on the streets. Each character has strong traits that are well developed in the story and add to Sparrows own narrative.
It is a bit of a complex read and younger adolescents may find it difficult due to this – jumping from one narrative to the other with little binding them at times. Sparrow goes through an awful lot of tragedy and experiences throughout the book and it can seem a bit over the top at times! All in all I liked the way the novel brings empathy and sheds light on little heard about stories like child homelessness and need.