A Seven-Letter Word ISBN: 9781509801138
Published by Macmillan Children's Books, 2017
The 'seven letter word' from the title is 'stammer', and fourteen year old Finlay has a serious problem with his speech. Not only that, but his mum has left home without saying goodbye and without any explanations. Finlay and his dad love each other, but communication is difficult, both because of Finlay's stammer and because his dad really doesn't know how to talk to him. Finlay and his mum were extremely close because they both loved word games, particularly Scrabble, and they were real experts at it. This is something dad has never shared and can't quite see why Finlay loves it so. He should be out playing football! The whole novel centres on Scrabble and on Finlay's terrible trouble with a hard-line bully at school, a really unpleasant beast of a boy who makes life a misery and sends Finlay's self-esteem lower than low. There is much about how Finlay himself feels about his stammer and how it affects him, and this is one of the real strengths of the story. An understanding librarian at school who sees Finlay's real talent with Scrabble and enters him for the national competition, and an Asian girl, Maryam, who is also very talented in the game, becomes his friend and teaches him much of what he needs to know to be a winner. Racial bullying comes into the story too, and Finlay learns much about what Maryam has to put up with. There is a mystery going on which appears to have to do with Finlay's mum, and this develops into a really first-rate thriller, with an horrendous, violent baddie and an internet friendship that turns out to be part of the plot. Intense, well-written, thoroughly exciting and un-put-downable, this reviewer found it riveting!