You wouldn’t mess with Mel. She doesn't care about much, but when things go wrong at home, she cares. She has to find out what’s going on. It’s not a choice. And when she does, everything in her life falls apart. And everything has to change.

Closer is a difficult story that needs to be told, and heard, a story about what happens when a dad gets too close. But most of all, it’s a story about Mel – funny, outrageous, emotional, brave. You won’t forget her.

Published by Five Leaves.

Review by Yvonne Coppard in Carousel: the most realistic, most compelling read I've come across for a long time...Mel's hesitant, half-told account of what's going on builds the suspense; there are no gory details, we kind-of know what's coming but can't be sure what will happen next. I'ts impossible to make a story like this ring true for everyone, but as a sensitive and realistic portrayal of the complexity of incest and the quiet devastation is wreaks on a family, this is up there with the best I've read.

Review by Luisa on ChicklishMel is fed up. At first, her problems sound like those of an average teenager. Her parents are arguing, she's not sure whether Raj, her crush, likes her or not, and she doesn't get on with her big sister Hannah. Then she reads a page from Hannah's diary and it changes everything. Hannah's been keeping a secret; a shocking secret that will tear the family apart and change Mel's life forever.

I don't want to give any spoilers, so I'll stick to the back cover wording, which describes Closer as "a difficult story that needs to be told, a story about what happens when a dad gets too close". Closer is a novel about a harrowing subject and it's sensitively written, with an emphasis on the way the whole family is affected. It doesn't exactly condemn, but we can clearly see Mel's confusion, revulsion and her difficulty in making sense of her discovery and coming to terms with what it means for her family. There's a sense of impending doom in the earlier chapters and some moving scenes when the events begin to affect Mel more directly. There are also glimmers of hope in Mel's troubled life, and I particularly love the way that the sisters' relationship develops and deepens. Hannah is a great character, strong and caring, and Raj is lovely too. I also enjoyed the way that Mel expresses herself and copes through art.

An uncomfortable but gripping story, beautifully told.

Review from The School Librarian


Closer book cover

Review of Closer from Books for Keeps

This insightful novel from small East Midlands independent publisher, Five Leaves, examines the consequences when a step dad gets too close to the girls he calls his daughters. Fifteen-year-old Mel despairs of her family but can’t work out what’s going wrong. Rows at home are increasingly frequent, relations with her older sister Hannah are weirdly strained and then there are her own insecurities about her weight and whether Raj will ever fancy her. Then the man she loves and calls Dad starts paying Mel the wrong kind of attention, and everything falls apart.

Despite the cataclysmic effect that the resulting revelations of abuse have on all their lives, Maxine Linnell neatly avoids making a drama out of the crisis, concentrating instead on a careful examination of the feelings of those caught up in it, from those of Mel’s devastated mum to those of a hurt and confused younger brother not old enough to understand. Difficult issues are not ducked, and Linnell makes it clear that there will be no easy answers. But this is not a wholly dark story. Significantly, the possibility of partial redemption for the perpetrator of the abuse is left open. He is portrayed neither as villain nor victim, but as a mixed-up human being. People are complicated, is the message. And it is when Mel understands this that she finds the maturity to break out of her self-absorption, and becomes a better daughter, sister and friend as a result.

Closer joins a plethora of young adult novels which have sought to tackle the subject of abuse by a parent. The sensitive simplicity and authenticity of Closer make it a particularly welcome addition to the field.