Being Billy – Phil Earle

“The light in the hallway gave the game away.
Eleven pm and it was still on. If they were home, they would be in bed and all the lights would be off.
No, I knew this meant they were away. Even if they had gone to the pub, they’d have been back. Work tomorrow and all that.”
Having spent most of his life in care, Billy is alone, the only thing that keeps him going are his brother and sister, The Twins. When separated from them for only 6 months to spend time with a foster family nearby he went totally off the rails. Hes going through a bad phase when his latest review comes up and Billy’s faced with a pretty hefty ultimatum, he either behaves or he’ll get sent to somewhere more capable of looking after him. Alone. Without the siblings he loves and cares for so much. He doesn’t do the things he doesn’t on purpose, and he doesn’t know how to change, but chances are he’s gunna have to if he wants to be a good big brother.

Wow! I have had Being Billy on my shelves for ages and knew that it was going to be a quite emotional, hard to read book. In all honesty I’d been putting it off thinking it would weigh down on me but when I found out that it had been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year award I knew I had to get round to it, and I’m so glad I was finally pushed into it because it’s an amazing story, just as emotional as I thought it would be but just amazing!
The story is a harsh one and that’s what weighs you down in this book, there’s a lot to gather and I did struggle getting into it at first because of the emotional connection you get to Billy. I was scared for the first 50 pages that this book was too heavy for the time I was reading it and that I was going to really struggle. I thought Billy was too wounded for me to connect properly with him and had been through too much for me. At the beginning of the book it really did seem that Billy was tortured and had no chance of changing himself. Then events happened that changes Billy as a character, he was still wounded, tortured by his past and thought that the whole world was out to get him and really I can’t blame him. But he started to change and grow as a character. This book was still a difficult read but I knew that once I was introduced to Billy I needed to read his story.
There is a lot for Billy to deal with, you slowly get to know him and his past and his relationship with The Twins and other people and I loved how much of the story focussed on people and how you can know them but never really know them. I loved Ronnie, and how Billy had different names for him. I loved their relationship and thought it was perfect. I can imagine that being a real type of relationship within the care system and actually the whole care system thing came across as really realistic, I wasn’t surprised to learn after I finished that Phil Earle had actually worked as a social worker. My hat goes off to those guys, I couldn’t do that job and not take it home with me every day, I’d have to adopt half the kids that came through the door!
I really regret not starting this book earlier than I did, everything about it was amazing, the characters, the writing, the story and how it dealt with every event. I loved Billy and Daisy and I really can’t wait to read Saving Daisy, which as far as I can gather is Daisy’s story, told in parallel. The whole way through Being Billy I wanted to know more about her and how come she ended up where she did!
This book is a brilliant insight into what it’s like growing up in care, what it’s like having so much responsibility at 14 and how easy it is to miss things around you until it’s too late. I don’t want to say too much in this review which is why it’s been kept quite vague but I can tell you now that if you haven’t read this yet, you really should!
Being Billy was published in January 2011 by Puffin and was Phil Earle’s debut YA novel. My copy was sent as a gift from the lovely Clover, from Fluttering Butterflies, thank you so much Clover!!


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