Stained by Joanne Hichens

Stained
stain: v.1 mark or discolour with something that is not easily removed. 2 damage (someone’s or something’s reputation). 3 colour with a penetrative dye or chemical.
n. 1 stubborn discoloured patch or dirty mark. 2 a thing that damages a reputation. 3 a dye or chemical used to colour materials.
South African Concise
Oxford Dictionary

Stained is a YA novel set in Cape Town in areas where I have friends and spent many hours visiting. It meant more to me than a number of other issue novels that I have read in the past because I know the area and have known and do know people like Grace, Crystal and their friends and families. The best description of the area (which is of high social & economic deprivation) in which they live is in this excerpt:

The highway, Prince George’s Drive, separates the rich from the poor like a line drawn. On our side are council houses and duplexes and block on block of dreary council flats. Beyond that is shackland…
Hardly any green on this side of the highway. No trees, no grass. On the mountain are the mansions with gardens and views of the sea.

The story is told from two viewpoints – the good girl Grace (through whom we experience most of the story) is working on a project on pregnancy and longing to break free from her overprotective foster mother Martha who has raised her. She dreams of finding her birth mother and cutting loose to be a bad girl; and Crystal a beautiful young woman who ended up pregnant and was forced to keep baby. Crystal isn’t coping and hides a dreadful secret that is gradually revealed over the course of the novel, at the same time we witness her slow disintegration to the inevitable tragic conclusion. They are linked by Shardonnay, Crystals sister and Grace’s friend a Pop Idols hopeful and bad girl at her secondary school, she is going through life her way, immune to the rumours & accusations and willing to do anything to get to the top.

Stained is not a happy story, it is about choices, identity and knowing who you are! Ultimately it is also about love, acceptance and hope.

Although set in South Africa Stained has universal appeal as the choices and situations Grace and her friends find themselves in can and do happen anywhere in the world.

I literally could not put this book down and read it in one sitting.

Rated E+H for Excellent & Heartrending

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