Review of ‘Sofa Surfer’ by Malcolm Duffy

‘You never forget the day you lose your home.’

This is a story with a heart and a message. There are 380,000 homeless people in the UK, with the vast majority being the hidden homeless – ‘sofa surfers’. Many are at risk of harm or exploitation. Researched with homeless charities, Malcolm Duffy’s second novel brings this important issue to a young adult audience. It’s designed to not only raise awareness, but to point out the privilege that many of us take for granted – having a roof over our heads, somewhere safe to sleep and enough to eat.

The narrator is 15-year-old Tyler, who is furious with his parents for moving the family up north, from London to Ilkley, West Yorkshire (in the north of England). His dog is his only friend. Until one day at the lido, a tall skinny girl called Spider asks him to teach her to swim. She seems weird. A Geordie (a person from Tyneside in the north-east), she’s an outsider too. It turns out she’s homeless. Tyler wants to help, in the face of opposition from his parents and a horrible but hot girl called Michele who has decided she’s his girlfriend.

I liked the straightforward writing style and social realism, which were also present in Duffy’s previous book. The sense of place was excellent and a refreshing change. I don’t think I’ve read a novel set in Ilkley before! I appreciated the discussions on homelessness and the reasons why someone might not seek help. It’s the kind of novel which makes you think deeply and reflect on why people are homeless and how they can be supported. The characterisation was good and I could see and hear the characters clearly. Importantly, there was humour too.

There was a warm-hearted tone to the book, despite the sadness of the ‘sofa surfer’ sitation. I think Malcolm Duffy is to be congratulated on tackling a difficult and emotive topic in a young adult novel, resulting in a rewarding and engaging read.

Thank you to Zephyr (an imprint of Head of Zeus) for the proof copy. Sofa Surfer will be published on February 6th.


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