Skulk by Rosie Best is a Young Adult novel published by one of my favourite publishers, Strange Chemistry. With this book, Best takes us on a graffiti tour of modern day London, introducing some cool shapeshifter lore, and creating some very interesting mysteries and conspiracies.
The story follows Meg, the young teenage daughter of a powerful politician, who is expected do all the right things, say all the right words, and present the perfect image so as not to embarrass her family. You either embrace this environment or you rebel against the suffocation, and for Meg it's the latter, sneaking out at night to paint graffiti under the cover of darkness. Things change when Meg witnesses the death of a strange man at one of her graffiti sites. His death results in a transfer of power, granting Meg the ability to shapeshift into a fox. These new found powers bring Meg a gratifying sense of freedom, a bunch of new shifter friends, and a bunch of weird problems fuelled by conspiracy theories on top of conspiracy theories.
I found Meg to be one of the more likable characters I've been introduced to in my recent YA reads. She's a young girl with an attitude. She appreciates art. She is desperate to get out of a stifling environment with parents who call her fat and maids who are ordered to observe every single calorie she may or may not consume. She just wants to live. These admirable qualities make her endearing. You want her to prevail. You hate it when she gets hurt. Meg feels like a real person, like someone I might have gone to school with. Her friends have also been well crafted, from her vapid school friends to her neurotic shifter friends. Best doesn't quite imbue them with the same depth, but its hard to do that when the story is being told from the first-person perspective.
While the characterization was great, the plot was very simple and did not offer nearly as much as it could have. The mysteries and conspiracies were cool and intriguing, but the plot was fuelled by coincidence, with nearly all of the vital plot points happening because our main characters just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Character deaths just seemed to happen, with very little significance or emotional weight being attached. In the end it felt like it didn't matter what actions the characters would take, the outcome of the story would depend on things being in the right place at the right time, and that wasn't very satisfying for me.
As far as debut novels go, Skulk is very solid, providing a stable platform that will allow Best to jump from strength to strength. While her plotting needs improvement, the story she is telling is very interesting, and the characters she is using to tell the story are fantastic. I look forward to reading whatever comes next for Best.
Review by Ryan Lawler
Eden from Australia
I'm writing on behalf of my daughter, Eden who is 11. She LOVED this book, devoured it. She tells me there was meant to be a second book, but it wasn't published?? Yikes. It should be published. My daughter, is not the only one who loved it. We have leant it to 5 other friends and they loved it too. Could we please have the second book Stranger Chemistry? Jennie - Eden's mum
8.5/10 from 2 reviews