Monday, 2 March 2009

Book review - Damage by Sue Mayfield

Wow. This book is amazing. I can’t really summarise it and the blurb on the back doesn’t do it justice. Really, all I need to summarise the book is a picture of the cover. Some covers don’t really fit a book that well, but with damage what you see is what you get. Damage is about four young people who get into a car on the night of a party. That car crashes.

The chapters alternate from the points-of-view of just about everyone affected by the car crash one year later, but throughout the book the story of the night of the crash is slowly told. Damage is about picking up the pieces when disaster hits you, it’s about coming to terms with guilt and a sense of responsibility. In such an accident, many people will feel guilty – parents who feel they should have collected the four teenagers themselves, friends who should have been with them and so on. This book is fairly short, but gritty and full of raw reality. The people involved all behave in a huge variety of different ways. The parents of the other children will always feel the need to blame the driver, so how can you come to terms with that?

What Damage is not – a story about how lots of partying and drinking brings on a car crash for four thoughtless teens in the car. It’s not that. All four of the people in the crash are smart, they’re not being excessively stupid, they’re behaving in a way that anyone might. The point, the scary point, is that it could happen to anyone.
What Damage is – incredibly realistic and incredibly honest. It’s a story about loss and acceptance. It also made me cry (very rare!) not at the saddest part, but when one of the parents who has crumpled under the shock begins to recover. I think this would be a valuable book for anyone who’s been involved in a similar accident, or even if you haven’t. I guess what’s so special about Damage is that the people feel real, the situation feels real, the story feels real. And it makes you think.

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I wrote this review yesterday and it seems saddly appropriate to post it today given the recent car crash story. I don't know any of the details of the real-life accident so I'm not saying they were at all like the book. But it is a terrible thing to happen and my condolences go to the families involved.


  1. I've enjoyed other Sue Mayfield books and I'll look out for this. Thanks for a great, thought-provoking review.

  2. Wow. This sounds really good. I hadn't heard of it, so thank you for pointing it out!

  3. It's been out a couple of years so it might be hard to get hold of, though the Waterstones website stocks it. Find it if you can!