by Cathy Cassidy
Twelve-year-old Scarlett is a rebel: outrageous clothes, tongue stud, total contempt for authority and thinks she is totally cool.
Inside she constantly mourns the loss of the perfect family life she remembers before her father left, and bitterly resents the super-efficient mother who hasn't time for her. As a result she refuses to become part of her father's new happy family life, particularly the easy going and loving Clare, her father's pregnant wife.
However, when Scarlett meets a mysterious boy riding a black horse, she begins to feel a new calm and happiness. Scarlett's story is often funny, but the serious hurt she is feeling is ever-present.
There is a magical timelessness to the story, added by the constant references to ancient Irish folklore.
'Of course, getting kicked out of Greenhall Academy is no joke. Head teachers and school secretaries don’t scare me, but Mum – well, that’s a different story.
We travel home on the tube in stony silence, which is not good news. The first time I got excluded from Greenhall, Mum laughed and said that dyeing your hair green in the school toilets was hardly a criminal offence.
OK, I shouldn’t have nicked that bottle of hydrogen peroxide from the chemistry lab, but I’d heard the stuff was used in hair dye, and I was truing to get a few cool blonde streaks. I didn’t know it would turn my hair into something that looked, felt and smelt like a clump of mouldering seaweed. Attractive – not.'