I had the pleasure of attending Walker Books' January-June 2016 Showcase last year and while there were many exciting titles revealed during the event (including Hour of the Bees, Goldfish (now rebranded as Fish Out of Water) and The Dark Days Club), it was the proof of Twenty Questions for Gloria by Martyn Bedford that made its way to the top of my TBR pile first, and what a fantastic book to start with!
Gloria was missing for fifteen days. Disappearing from school alongside the new boy, her parents were understandably hugely relieved when their daughter finally made a reappearance, looking surprisingly nonplussed, all things considering. What happened during those days she was away? And where is the boy she was with for all that time now? Gloria is questioned by the police and through the transcripts of the twenty questions she's asked, and flashbacks to her time away from home, we slowly unravel the truth behind her disappearance.
Did Gloria run away with the boy she loves or was there something more sinister at play? The adults have already made up their minds before Gloria has even started telling her story, but what they hadn't expected was quite how complicated the relationship between the young girl and the boy was, and that there were forces at play long before the disappearance...
This book was SO good, you guys! First of all, I thought it was a very mature novel for the teen market. Sure we have discussions about racial and gender diversity, with disabilities and mental health issues finally making their way into the wider market of young adult releases as well, but this potential Stockholm Syndrome case covers a whole new area and I'm very pleased to see a young adult author being brave enough to tackle the topic.
Seeing the developments through the eyes of a teenager was a particularly fascinating one, as they tend to experience emotions and traumas far more intense and end-of-the-world than adults, which amplified the already very complicated relationship between Gloria and the boy who leads to her disappearance, Uman.
Martyn Bedford's writing is incredibly suspenseful and gripping, and once I started reading Twenty Questions for Gloria I HAD to know what would happen next. Even though I kept telling myself I would read only one more question (equating to a chapter), I ended up finishing the whole book in a day – I was that enthralled by the story and the mystery behind Gloria's disappearance and Uman's past.
Uman was clearly an incredibly clever young man, sincere in Gloria's eyes but sinister in that of the adults. What he genuine or manipulative? As we're only ever hearing Gloria's side of the story it is impossible to tell, but there is certainly more to him than initially meets the eye when on that faithful first day at his new school he decides to take a seat in the classroom next to Gloria. And when his shocking background is finally unraveled the questions only multiplied, teasing the reader but never truly giving a satisfactory answer; shrouding Gloria's disappearance and relationship with Uman in more mystery than ever.
Twenty Questions for Gloria is very cleverly put together, a fresh read aimed at the young adult market it's also incredibly insightful for adults to get a better understanding into how feelings and emotions are heightened in a teenager's mind, which can lead to terrible spur-of-the moments decisions.
And even though we're not really supposed to, I loved Gloria and Uman's relationship, especially in the beginning. It was mysterious and exciting, and I can completely understand why Gloria fell under Uman's charm. A scary thought perhaps, but a fascinating one too and one that Bedford plays into brilliantly and provides plenty of food for thought.
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Twenty Questions for Gloria will be published on 4 February 2016 (my birthday!) by Walker Books and you can pre-order the novel from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.