One, two, three, breath.

When a juvenile detention exercise off the coast of the Kimberley goes wrong, sixteen-year-old Sparrow must swim to shore. There are sharks and crocs around him but the monsters he fears most live in the dark spaces in his mind.

He’s swimming away from his prison life and towards a desolate, rocky coastland and the hollow promise of freedom. He’ll eat or be eaten, kill or be killed.

With no voice, no family and the odds stacked against him, Sparrow has nothing left to lose. But to survive he’ll need something more potent than desperation, something more dangerous than a makeshift knife.

This is a great book for mature teens and older readers; it’s a mixture of a survival story (both physical and emotional) and a comment on the ones who slip through the cracks in a society.

In a series of flashbacks, we come to see how Sparrow ends up in juvenile detention. However, by then, we have already formed an opinion of his character. He is kind, sad, courageous and eternally hopeful. While he has suffered immensely with death, abandonment, homelessness and violence, not least through association with his brother, he has remained pure hearted.

One wonders how two brothers, brought up in the same intolerable conditions, can be so very different!. I love Sparrow’s kindness and the kindness shown to him by many of the characters. It’s poignant and sad to see the life he moulds for himself on the streets of Darwin, all the time maintaining his muteness. It’s a reminder that even small gestures of kindness can have a deep affect of others and allow them to maintain their dignity.

His courage and capabilities are needed as he survives in the wilds of the Kimberleys. The descriptions of the Australian landscape emphasise just how resourceful and courageous he needs to be in order to survive.

The author has an excellent understanding of teenagers. You can only wonder how Sparrow has maintained his innocence and his kindness and you can only hope that more people look out for ones like him. A great read and pass it on to your teenagers if you have any.