Title: The Crossing
Author: Manjeet Mann
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction/Books in Verse
Number of Pages: 320
I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately it wasn’t nearly as good as the author’s last book, Run, Rebel. Run, Rebel had a powerfully written protagonist who felt like a real person and it never felt like a preachy ‘message’-type story. It dealt with issues like illiteracy and domestic abuse but the voice of the main character came first. The Crossing is, well, kind of the opposite. It feels very well-intentioned but also often comes off as heavy-handed and emotionally manipulative.
Nat is a teenage girl living in Dover who is having a really hard time in her family. Her mum recently died of cancer and they’ve been kicked out of the flat, so her dad is fighting to find somewhere for them to live. Meanwhile, her brother has turned to racism and xenophobia and is running with a group of white supremacists. Nat knows her brother’s viewpoints are wrong, and she wants to struggles to stand up to bigots like her mom would have wanted her to.
When she encounters Sammy, a young refugee from a war-torn African country, Nat feels drawn to him and wants to help him. Sammy is the other viewpoint character besides Nat and his situation is even worse. He lost his father and was held captive and tortured before finally escaping to the U.K. His late dad inspires him like Nat’s mom inspires her and he struggles to find dignity and strength in an almost unlivable situation. This book has the odd habit of segueing from the end of one poem from one character’s perspective and beginning the next poem from the other viewpoint character with the same couple of lines. It feels kind of, well… fake.
The writing style was didactic and every single thing that happened tied neatly into the narrative. There was no space for the characters to develop organically. Nat was a believable character with flaws but Sammy was pretty much perfect. He was smart, selfless, brave, and never seemed to have any moments of weakness or cowardice or anything that would make us question his integrity. Nat’s mom and Sammy’s dad give many sagacious pieces of advice that pop up throughout the narrative.
It makes the dead parents seem maudlin and like they didn’t have any personality traits except leaving their kids with impactful life lessons. Most of the characters (except Nat) are pretty one-dimensional and uninteresting. I think it’s the focus on the MESSAGE above the story and the characters which makes the book boring. Don’t get me wrong, the takeaways about standing up for other people and supporting refugees are very positive but they shouldn’t be treated as more important than everything else. This wasn’t a bad book by any means and I think a lot of people will really like it, but I didn’t think it was worth buying a copy online.