Skunk Cunningham is an eleven-year-old girl in a coma. She has a loving dad, an absent mother and a brother who plays more X-Box than is good for him. She also has the neighbours from hell: the five Oswald girls and their thuggish father Bob, vicious bullies all of them, whose reign of terror extends unchallenged over their otherwise quiet suburban street. And yet terrifying though they undoubtedly are, the stiletto-wearing, cider-swilling Oswald girls are also sexy – so when Saskia asks shy, virginal Rick Buckley for a ride in his new car, he can’t believe his luck. Too bad that Saskia can’t keep her big mouth shut. When, after a quick fumble, she broadcasts Rick’s deficiencies to anyone who will listen, it puts ideas into her younger sister’s silly head – ideas that will see Rick dragged off to prison, humiliated, and ultimately, in his father’s words, ‘broken’ by the experience. From her hospital bed, Skunk tries to make sense of the events that follow, as Saskia’s small act of cruelty spreads through the neighbourhood in a web of increasing violence. As we inch closer to the mystery behind her coma, Skunk’s innocence becomes a beacon by which we navigate a world as comic as it is tragic, and as effortlessly engaging as it is ultimately uplifting, in this brilliant and utterly original debut novel.
Reviews of Broken
‘There are many good things here: it’s bold, prescient, engaging and oddly touching.’ Guardian
‘A seething indignation propels the narrative to its violent conclusion.’ Arena
‘This is a novel whose plot and vivid, pared-down imagery bravely patrol the terrifying border at which the human blurs into the bestial and inanimate…remarkably controlled and disciplined…Clay’s triumph is in exploring the kindness and love that might heal and restore – and what it is to feel fully alive.’ Anita Sethi, Independent
‘It’s funny and sad and moving…and ultimately very engaging.’ Francesca Segal, Observer
‘A moving, intriguing and at times funny debut novel.’ Daily Express