A strange boy (Stephen Rose) moves to a small town in the east of England in the 1960s. For most of the kids already living there, he’s a curiousity, kicked out of seminary school, living with the village woman known as Crazy Mary, surrounded by rumors of his father’s odd death and his mother’s decent into madness. For Davie, he’s a fascination, particularly after he whispers “move” to a hunk of clay, and Davie could swear it actually does.

The dialogue is trite and overblown, the first-person narration doesn’t match the way Davie speaks, and while I can intellectually understand that fistfights were highly important to boys in small English towns in the 60s, I still don’t really get it. Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating portrayal of the effect of someone captivating. Davie isn’t just swept up in the supernatural, nigh-unexplainable occurances, he’s swept up in Stephen Rose, in Stephen Rose’s certainty and belief. Reading Clay, I was continually torn between my impatience with the mediocre writing and the power of Davie’s story as he’s untethered from everything he knows.

David Almond