Review – Cygnet



Publisher: Dialogue Books

Cover Art: Nico Taylor and Neil Gower

Format: Hardback

Pages: 244

Rating: 4/5

Book Depository: Hardback

Content Warnings: Self harm; child abuse; bullying; dementia; drugs


The Kid lives on an island which doubles up as a retirement village. She does not live there by choice, but rather was left there by her parents when their drug habits and lifestyles were no longer conducive to having a child. Her grandmother Lolly has passed away and the other ‘swans’ on the island are becoming irritated by her presence. The approach of her eighteenth birthday has Kid convinced her parents are coming to retrieve her, but what will happen if they don’t as Kid becomes Adult? 

This is a deeply poignant and saddening coming-of-age story about abandonment and the lies we tell ourselves in order to have the ability to keep going. The Kid struggles in a society she should never have been sent to live in and she must attempt to survive alone at a pivotal age in terms of development. Some of the residents make it especially clear they’re not happy with her inclusion on the island, which only makes it harder for her to try and find her place in the world. 

The symbolism oozes from this book and is very cleverly done. The cliff upon which Kid’s house is situated is slowly crumbling into the sea. By the end, this becomes an extremely dire situation, which reflects the path her life has taken without her parents or Lolly to guide her. Her time on the island is running out, but where can she go and will she be able to withstand the perils of the real world on her own?

We get snippets of the past from Kid’s memory, which are effective in helping the reader understand how Kid got to where she is now. She has been consistently abused and abandoned and is now in the process of being expelled from her own home. There is a point in the book where you start to think she is finally being welcomed within the society. However, she is taken advantage of once again and ostracised further as a result. It seems as though every time she makes a friend or takes a step forward, she is betrayed and thrown three steps back. 

Some may say this is unrealistic, because Kid is truly unable to catch a break. The truth is, however, that this is the reality for many children, especially in the care system. This reflection of how cruel life can be when there is no intervention is bold and non-apologetic where other books would perhaps sugar coat or shy away from the topic in an attempt to not scare away the readers. 

Most of the characters are severely unlikeable and the ones who did provide a glimmer of hope were not consistent. This further added to the sense of impending collapse and the overall effect was claustrophobic. 

There is a content warning for self harm, and the only reason I gave this book a four stars instead of five is because this happens and then is not acknowledged later. I would have appreciated more of an attempt at awareness of this topic, as it felt a little bit blasé and underdeveloped. 

Besides that, I think this is a fantastic book that tackles some important issues adolescents can face when they are neglected. It highlights the social and mental health problems that can befall teenagers when they are mistreated in this way and it doesn’t shy away from the gritty aspects. I thoroughly recommend this one if you don’t mind a more intense read. 

Please note that the Book Depository link is an affiliate link and if you buy any books through it, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. I will be putting this commission towards improving the content I create for this blog.





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