contemporary · review · young adult

A Seven Letter Word – Kim Slater

“There’s no chit-chat or messing about, we just get on with playing the game. The other players don’t know anything about me at all. They haven’t got a clue that I can’t even say my own name or string a sentence together. I’d like to be that boy in real life.”

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Blurb: “Finlay’s mother vanished two year ago. And ever since then his stutter has become almost unbearable. Bullied at school and ignored by his father, the only way to get out the words which are bouncing around in his head is by writing long letters to his ma which he knows she will never read, and by playing Scrabble online. But when Finlay is befriended by an online Scrabble player called Alex, everything changes. Could it be his mother secretly trying to contact him? Or is there something more sinister going on?”

This story follows a teenage boy names Finlay who has a really bad stutter. When his mum left one day without a single word, let alone a reason why, that stutter gets worse.  Finlay seeks solace in the word board game Scrabble which he used to play with his mother, but also acts as a way for him to understand the importance and value of words. He frequently plays the game online where one day he meets a boy called Alex but this new person doesn’t just want someone to play the game, this person wants to get to know him. At school, Finlay is roped into the school’s scrabble club which leads to him being put forward for a championship and this kind of competition means newspaper reports. It’s the kind of coverage Finlay believes will bring his mother back.

There are so many things I loved about this book. For a start, it tackles a common issue that I haven’t seen really represented in books which is having a stutter. The book features a lot of scenes where adults allow Finlay a moment to get his words out but then cut him off and finish his sentences for him which I found very frustrating and gave me an insight into what it felt like to be in that position. The narrative switches between prose explaining the events of the story and letters Finlay writes to his mother but never sends.

Through the school’s Scrabble club, Finlay meets a muslin girl called Maryam who quickly became my favourite character. She faces a lot of prejudice within the story because of her religion which brings attention to a horrible problem that exists in society but also while facing a different kind of prejudice, Finlay and Maryam were able to connect with each other on some sort of level because of that.

Another thing that’s great about Kim’s books is you can never take things at face value. There is always an entirely different storyline under the surface that you just never see coming and that is the art of a fantastic writer.

The only thing I really found fault with is that the conversations between Alex and Finlay are bold text in the same font and at times it was hard to tell which characters were speaking.

Other than that, another brilliant book from Kim Slater.
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