Parent reviewer from Dormston School Parent and Pupil Book Club

I enjoyed reading Outside Chance, as did my 12-year-old daughter. I have previously read the first book in the series and found this book easier to read (although I really enjoyed the first book too). Perhaps the scene-setting in book one outlining Edie’s family circumstances and developing the storyline of her initial grief following her mother’s death, as well as the developing mystery with the doctors, made the first book a little more complex. Outside Chancepresents several mysteries, such as the missing dog and the failed exam, and I think that this book could be enjoyed without reading the first in the series (although would be better if read after the first). There are some good links to the previous book (such as Ethan outlining his mom’s recovery in Chapter 2, the Three Principles, and the letter from Peter Goswell).

There is good character progression with the main character, Edie, revealing more about herself and her Jewish heritage as the plot unfolds. The developing relationship with her dad as time passes following her mother’s death and the personal troubles of characters such as Lizzie add an emotional side to the book alongside the mysteries. I enjoyed reading details which are challenges to stereotypes (such as Dr Young having a nose piercing). 

The chapter titles engage the reader (e.g. ‘(Lucky) Escape’) and the prologue starts the book dramatically with Edie trapped in a cupboard in a fire.  This hooks the reader in right at the start and reminds the reader about her mom. Throughout the book there are puzzles which encourage the reader to keep reading (such as when Donna and Rachel had both been to the Fitzwilliam Musuem).

I enjoyed reading the section about fatalism and determinism in the discussion with the rabbi - this is clearly presented and encourages the reader to think about their own beliefs. By Chapter 10, the book’s title of Outside Chance is explained – things happen for a reason without luck. 

As an adult reader, there were moments in the book which I thought were unlikely (such as being able to successfully tap into Heath’s conversation and retrieve the device, and being able to find the exam paper on Dr Bannon’s computer). Being able to successfully detonate the bomb in seconds, whilst dramatic, was unlikely too. Likewise, I thought it was unlikely that Edie would have told Rochelle that Donna works for the security services. When terrorism is threatened and after the crash with the motorcyclist with the axe, I would have hoped that Edie would have gone to the police or school with the information. 

Edie’s health is considered more in this book – as well as asthma, her anxiety and panic attacks are discussed with the positive message that help is available. She is presented as a brave character taking action, such as arranging to meet Dr Bannon and dealing with the bomb.  It is interesting to see that respected adults such as Donna are asking for Edie’s help and this supports the message in the book that whatever your age, you can play a part in society and make a difference. 

As with the first book, a strength of this book is the way that serious issues such as terrorism and environmental issues are included alongside very everyday scenes and situations. For example, in Chapter 1 there is a very relatable scene when Edie’s brother is playing FIFA before going to football training, and when a child in school grabs the can of Fanta – this may help similar-aged readers to imagine that it could be them. There are many details such as references to Greggs, Spotify, Zoom, WhatsApp and silent electric cars to make this book feel up to date for modern readers.  The end of the final chapter sets the scene for the next book in the series, which we are looking forward to. I would recommend this book for secondary school students or for families with secondary school students to read together. I also love the idea of a Spotify list at the end of the book. 

Lester | 18/11/2022 09:41
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