And By The Way by Denise Deegan

At Strandbrook College, we are Kids Of. Kids of diplomats, media stars, musicians, artists, actors, oh, and wealthy people who aspire to all of that. I’m the kid of a rock star. Means nothing to me. When Mum died, six months ago, I didn’t just lose her, I lost my dad — to work. The only thing he does now is annoy me. He hires people like ‘The Stylist’ who wears bullets in her belt and makes him look like a hobo. Seriously. But ‘The Rockstar’ isn’t the only person who drives me mad. There’s David McFadden, a guy in my class who could have helped but didn’t. Now, it’s too late. I don’t want his help. Because I’m not going to trust anyone, love anyone, rely on anyone. That way I’ll never be hurt again. If only I could solve the problem of Rachel, my best friend, who won’t let me pull back just like that. Even David McFadden won’t stay out of my face. But I’m not going to fall for his blue eyes, his windswept hair or the plaited leather on his wrist. And when he says he wants to help, I’m sure as hell not going to listen…

And By The Way is Denise Deegan’s first novel in the “Butterfly” series, revolving around the kids who attend Strandbrook College in Dublin. It came to my attention when Denise emailed us about her novel and I was pleased to get a copy to review. It’s taken me months to read it – mainly because I prefer to have an entire series to read rather than risk cliff-hangers, but as the second book of the series has recently come out, I decided it was time to read And By The Way.

And By The Way isn’t a perfect novel – it starts very slowly, and I found it hard to really get into it until the second half of the novel – but it is enjoyable and the novel does pick up in the second half, and I did struggle to put the book down as it got very interesting. And By The Way is mainly a novel about grief – Alex’s mother has recently died and she’s struggling to get over it, struggling to know how to carry on and it’s not helped by the fact that her dad – The Rockstar – has withdrawn into his own shelf, spending time with his band and jetting off all over the world. Alex just wants to dissolve into her grief, she doesn’t want people to try and help her and I found that interesting. There aren’t many novels I’ve read about grief and I thought And By The Way was a really good insight into how a teenager deals with death and I really liked Alex.

I liked that Alex’s friends didn’t just let her go. That they were there for her, even when Alex was trying to her best to pull away. I thought Sarah and Rachel were such good friends. I also liked David McFadden, I didn’t expect him and Alex to get together so quickly – the synopsis made it sound that it would be a novel where they ignored each other for most of the novel, but they get together really quickly and I loved that. I liked how David helped bring Alex out of her shell, helped to keep her busy and not let her stew in her grief. He was so lovely. Everyone needs a surfer-boy like David in their lives.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book in the end, I thought the exploration of grief was fantastic, Denise has really tapped into Alex’s life and come the second half of the book I couldn’t stop reading. I’ve now bought myself the second novel in the series And For Your Information which is Sarah’s story and, hopefully, we’ll get a third novel with Rachel’s story, too! I’d definitely recommend the book, despite a few errors (sentences that had words missing, some Irish slang words that I couldn’t decipher but can’t remember now to point them out). It was a brilliant teen read and I look forward to reading more of Denise’s books and continuing the Butterfly novels and re-visiting Alex, Sarah and Rachel as they’re a brilliant trio of friends.

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