By Author / Illustrator
David Fickling Books
Paperback / softback
Lexi's angry. And it's getting worse. If only she could stop losing her temper, her step-father would accept her, her mum would love her again, and her step-brother would return her feelings. She wants these things so badly, she tries to push her fury down.But it isn't easy. Her rage is there for a reason. And if she stays quiet - she might just lose herself...
Everyone has met a Lexi, 15 years old and angry at seemingly everything and everybody. Lexi lives with her mum, her mum's new boyfriend John and her 6 year old half-sister Iris. She desperately wants John's love and approval but always seems to fall short of his sky-high ideals, especially compared to his perfect daughter. She also wants her mum to love her the way she did before John came on the scene and wants the boy of her dreams to fall for her - even if does happen to be her stepbrother from John's previous marriage.
Lexi tries time after time to behave herself, to stop losing her temper quite so often and so fiercely, but as her mum's impending marriage to John gets nearer and the change in her mum under John's influence becomes more apparent, so her anger becomes more difficult to control, her behaviour ever more irrational, even violent. The parallels with The Tempest, as Lexi is forced to audition for Caliban the monster, the outsider, rather than Miranda in the school play are skilfully drawn.
Furious Thing - now available in paperback - is a complex and challenging read, disturbing and troubling in many ways but always compelling and perfectly paced. The dialogue is pitch perfect, the characters feel very real. Lexi's anger, her irrationally out of proportion reactions and her propensity to make the wrong decisions make her a difficult character to like and a completely unreliable narrator. She wavers wildly between hating John and craving his attention.
To the outside world, John rarely seems as controlling as Lexi would have others believe. He constantly acts in her best interests, paying for costly therapies and medication, defending her at school. Her stepbrother too brings out another, not altogether admirable side to Lexi's personality, as she takes ever more outrageous steps to attract his attention in love; moves which he doesn't always rebuff as quickly as you'd like. We read with a growing sense of unease that John is the problem rather than Lexi in the way that he wears down her self-belief and identity. We realise that we have been manipulated and duped just as easily as those with whom he has been careful to surround himself, that we too have fallen victim to his smoke and mirrors trickery. The revelation, when it comes, is shocking and uncomfortable.
This is an extraordinary story which will outrage teenagers as it appeals to their sense of justice and will give them much to think about and discuss amongst themselves or as part of a PSHE curriculum. It shines the spotlight on toxic family dynamics and domestic abuse, demonstrates the stark difference between public and private personas and what goes on behind closed doors, showing clearly the importance of recognising the danger signs and trusting your instincts.
Downham's hope in writing Furious Thing is that girls like Lexi who fight to be heard and who have real and justifiable cause to be angry will be encouraged to come forward, to make a noise and not allow themselves to be shouted down when their rage is justified. I'd argue that boys need to read this book too. It is a book which gets under your skin and haunts you - and it is utterly brilliant.
Another exceptional and equally empowering story about coercive control and the importance of love and respect in healthy relationships is Holly Bourne's 'The Places I've Cried in Public'. Lisa Heathfield's Paper Butterflies is another unforgettable story about psychological abuse and complicated family relationships.
378 pages / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong
Suggested Reading Age 14+