Wednesday, 24 May 2017

THE LAURAS – by Sara Taylor

Reviewed by Jackie Marchant

Billed as a road-trip novel, I’d say this is so much more.  It’s a thirteen year old being woken by yet another row between parents, then being yanked out of bed and into Mum’s car.  So begins a road-trip that not only takes in several US states but introduces Alex to a past relived by a mother who has not said anything about until now.

It’s a very interesting past, involving an unconventional home life with parents who lapsed in and out of coping, foster homes both good and bad – and the Lauras, girls who’d influenced Alex’s mother’s life in some way.  In between the gradual opening up, there are those needing help, those needing revenge – and the sudden appearance of a gun.  All the while the two of them drift and Alex has to settle into new schools before being uprooted once again to go on the road. 

Then there is Alex.  The desire to go back home, against the need to be on the road.  This is where my review becomes tricky – because I can’t refer to Alex and ‘she’ or ‘he’ and I don’t want to write he/she, because Alex doesn’t know either.

Yet Alex’s indeterminate gender is not the focus of the story, although it does have consequences, particularly at school.  What stands out is Alex’s mother’s support, given unconditionally since the day Alex came home from school in tears because the children had been told to line up in a girls’ or a boys’ line and Alex was left not knowing which one to choose.
Throughout the book you never know whether Alex was born male or female.  But one thing for certain is that Alex is Alex, and it is this, not Alex's gender, that counts.

But please don’t think this is a book about gender – it is a about a mother and child road-trip, were discoveries are made, both self and each other.  It’s beautifully written and both Alex and the drifting mother come across as fully rounded characters, flaws, good points and all.

Supposedly for the adult market, I think this would sit perfectly alongside YA.  And although it’s not the main theme, it would be a welcome addition to the LGBT shelves.


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