Every once in a while here at Novel Novice, we mention a non-YA title — an “adult book” — that we think mainly YA readers should check out. And though we’ve mentioned this one before, it’s worth mentioning again that The Radleys by Matt Haig is certainly one of those books with crossover appeal.
What YA readers may find so refreshing about The Radleys is that while the teen characters are a large focus of the story, the book is really an examination of the family as a whole. As the title suggests, it is about the Radley family — all of them: mother, father, and teenage son and daughter. It also just so happens that they’re all vampires, which adds another layer to the familial drama that unfolds over the course of four days.
Meet the Radleys
Peter, Helen and their teenage children, Clara and Rowan, live in an English town. They are an everyday family, averagely dysfunctional, averagely content. But as their children have yet to find out, the Radleys have a devastating secret
From one of Britain’s finest young novelists comes a razor-sharp unpicking of adulthood and family life. In this moving, thrilling and extraordinary portrait of one unusual family, The Radleys asks what we grow into when we grow up, and explores what we gain – and lose – when we deny our appetites.
Haig’s writing is sharp and witty, as is the humor woven throughout The Radleys. But what really struck me about this book is the normalcy lurking beneath all the vampire drama. Because really, through the Radleys’ lives, we can examine a bit of ourselves. What couple hasn’t gone through a rough patch in their marriage? Dealt with the black sheep relative? Been tormented by long-kept secrets? What teens struggle to fit in? Deal with bullies? Discover who they really are? Haig tackles real issues that anyone can relate to in a whimsical and often humorous way.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter that the Radleys are vampires. What matters is that they are a family — and it’s seeing their struggles and how they overcome the odds to hold onto what they love most that makes this such a wonderful book to read.
And yes, while the teen characters may not be the sole focus of the book, this is a good thing here. Because their story alone isn’t compelling enough: it’s how their lives are impacted by their parents’ decisions (past and present) that makes this book so engaging. It’s how the teen children interact with their parents — the good, the bad, the ugly — that paints a whole, vivid picture. And it’s a strong enough element of the book that I think YA readers will latch onto and find a lot to enjoy. (Novel Novice staffer Steph disagreed with me, as she wrote in her review last year — but then, she & I have been known to disagree before.)
Ultimately, The Radleys is a novel about a family overcoming the odds to triumph as a cohesive unit. Its’ about their relationships with each other, how far they’re willing to go to stay together and protect one another, and what it really means to love someone. And yeah, they’re also vampires. In short, The Radleys is a sharp, witty book that uses a whimsical approach to tackle real-life issues.
The Radleys is now available in paperback (see that gorgeous new cover above). Read more about The Radleys here, on our stop of the paperback release blog tour!