Smart by Kim Slater
Published by Macmillan Children's Books
5th June 2014
'I found Jean's friend dead in the river. His name was Colin Kirk. He was a homeless man, but he still wanted to live.'
There's been a murder, but the police don't care. It was only a homeless old man after all.
Kieran cares. He's made a promise, and when you say something out loud, that means you're going to do it, for real. He's going to find out what really happened. To Colin. And to his grandma, who just stopped coming round one day. It's a good job Kieran's a master of observation, and knows all the detective tricks of the trade.
But being a detective is difficult when you're Kieran Woods. When you're amazing at drawing but terrible at fitting in. And when there are dangerous secrets everywhere, not just outside, but under your own roof.
It just looked like a pile of rags, floating on the water.
Jean sat on the bench with the brass plaque on. It said, In Memory of Norman Reeves, who spent many happy hours here.
The plaque means Norman Reeves is dead, but it doesn’t actually say that.
Jean held her head in her hands and her body was all jerky, like when you are laughing or crying. I guessed Jean was crying and I was right.
“He was my friend,” Jean sobbed.
I looked around but Jean was alone. People round here say Jean is cuckoo. That means mental. She used to be a nurse that delivered
babies. She still knows loads of stuff she learned from the medical books but no-one believes her.
“Who?” I said.
Jean pointed to the rags.
I went up to the edge of the embankment to look. There was a stripey bag half in the water. I saw a face with a bushy beard in the middle of the rags, under the ripples of water. One eye was open, one was closed.
I freaked out. The sea sound started in my head and I ran right past the bridge and back again but there was nobody to help. I’m not supposed to run like mad because it can start my asthma off.
“When the sea noise comes in your head,” said Miss Crane, “It is important to stay calm and breathe.”
I stopped running. I tried to stay calm and breathe. I used my inhaler.
Jean was still crying when I got back.
“He was my friend,” she said.
I picked up a long stick and took it over to the water. I poked at the face but not near the eyes.
“What are you doing?” Jean shouted from the bench.
“I’m doing a test to see if it’s a balloon,” I said. It felt puffy and hard at the same time, so I knew it was Jean’s friend’s head.
“Is it a balloon?” shouted Jean.
A woman with a dog was coming.
When she got near I said, “Jean’s friend is in the river.”
She looked at me funny, like she might ignore me and carry on walking. Then she came a bit nearer and looked into the water. She started screaming.
I really enjoyed this debut YA novel by Kim Slater. Kieran is special, he is smart. Not everyone thinks so, least of all his mum's boyfriend Tony, and his son Ryan, who spends all day playing Call of Duty. They don't like Kieran and treat him very badly. Kieran spends a lot of time alone in his bedroom where he writes down everything he sees and remembers in his notebooks. He wants to be a Crime Correspondent for Sky News so when he discovers a body in a river he is intent on finding out what happened to him.
We know from the start that Kieran has special needs. It is inferred, but never said, that he might be autistic. He also has a wonderful talent for drawing exactly what he sees, and it is this skill that leads him into trouble. He adores the artist L.S. Lowry and talks about his paintings and what they represent. Kieran's mum tries to protect him, both from the outside world, and the terrors within his own house, but when you are working every hour you possibly can, sometimes you just aren't there when you are needed most.
Smart is a funny, but moving, tale of one boy and how he fits into society. Full of lots of different characters, like homeless Jean, the dreadful bullies Tony and Ryan, and Kieran's new friend at school Karwana I thought this was a great read.
Miss Chapter x