Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction

BOOK REVIEW: Tin by Padraig Kenny

Short Review

Tin is a coming of age story as we journey with a boy called Christopher who is trying to find his place in a world that he feels he doesn’t belong in. A story about discovering ones-self and realising that you can be happy with who you are no matter what others think of you, it’s a story about being happy in your own skin. I think this book would resonate with many a young person as they fight the daily grind of not being told that they are not fit enough, smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough – this book I hope will inspire young people to see that they dont have to fit into any category, that they can be happy with who they are and what they want to do. It’s a story of discovery and family that is rich in its storytelling with Pádraig Kenny creating a world in which you can easily lose yourself in and hopefully return to one day!

If this book had friends they would be Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and I Robot by Isaac Asimov.

Long Review

When reading Pádraig Kenny’s Tin I couldn’t help but be swept away with feelings of nostalgia, for me Tin was like a greatest hits of any film or book where Robots form a central theme. The book had me reminiscing about Batteries Not Included, The Terminator, The Wizard of Ozand Return to Oz, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, I Robot, Ex Machinaand Robocop. Its a smorgasbord of delight, which shows Kenny’s remarkable talent as a writer, as with all of these comparisons, he still manages to create something that is new, bold and a delight to read – in the process creating a book that I feel reluctant readers, boys especially will really enjoy – hell I’d say everyone who reads it will enjoy the tale before them.

The book itself has a huge heart beating within the pages, dealing with many issues that young people face today. These are all touched upon with a deft touch by Kenny ensuring that these issues aren’t just glossed over, but in turn become beats throughout the story, threads that are woven majestically into its makeup; issues such as belonging, family, death, grief, image, identity and self worth.

There are so many awesome characters within Tin which again I feel makes it appeal to a wide target audience; Kenny has created a host of likeable characters that any reader should be able to find one that they relate to. Christopher our main protagonist is on a journey of discovery, trying to find out where he fits into the world. Absalom his carer and also junker / inventor is a very shady character that has you dread his every appearance. Jack is a character that seems to be the moral influence of the group, a leader also trying to not show that he is desperate to belong. Gripper is a beast of a machine, a hulking giant with a soft heart. Manda is faced with being happy with who she is, a childlike character who the others look out for. Round Rob, one of my favourite characters within the book, serves as comical relief on a number of occasions but also goes through a fabulous transformation of character (I couldn’t help but picture Tik-Tok from Return to Oz). Then we have the brilliantly fierce Estelle who makes skin for robots, who also has a past that she would rather forget and is searching for belonging too. Then we have the battling inventors Mr. Cormier and Blake who’s competition and hatred towards one another is a driving force in the storytelling.

With a cast of characters this long Kenny does a superb job at ensuring the reader cares for all of them, it’s no easy task, each character has a part to play no matter how small, but if you took away one of them the story would lose its impact, would cease to function like a mechanical toy if you took away a cog. Each character is fully developed and easy to remember – their individual journeys, longings and circumstances adding to the many layers of Tin.

In essence the story is about family, a coming of age tale that explores friendship and belonging; it’s about how far you would go to help, save and rescue a friend in need and finding your place in a world that has rejected you. Against all the odds do you have the strength to stand, the courage to fight the good fight and the perseverance to keep on going.

The clockwork heart ticking at the centre of Tin is about finding your place in the world and being happy with who / what you are. Something that is relevant to all of us, young or in my case old.

Tin is published by Chicken House Books and is available here.

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Pádraig Kenny

padraig kenny

Pádraig Kenny is an Irish writer from Newbridge in County Kildare. He has a first class master’s degree in Anglo-Irish Writing from Maynooth University, and he has taught English literature and creative writing. He has worked as a freelance arts journalist, and as a scriptwriter he has written drama and comedy for radio and screen. Tin is his first novel.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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