By Heather Marks
No second book pitfalls here – Indigo Donut is a stunning tale of love overcoming loss, as Patrice Lawrence weaves the aftermath of childhood trauma with the giddy butterflies of teen romance. ★★★★
Indigo witnesses her father kill her mother when she is just a toddler. Other family members are nowhere to be seen, which means she is left to bounce around the care system. This is the novel’s opening scene, and the trauma of it still plagues Indigo as she starts her first day of sixth form at her ‘last chance’ school. Everything seems set to go bust, as others are keen to use her past against her. However, an encounter with the tall, tender hearted, ginger afro’d Bailey is the beginning of a heart-warming romance. But when an overly curious homeless man follows Bailey home to ask questions about Indigo, it’s only a matter of time before the past wreaks havoc on the present.
Lawrence has a fine ear for dialogue – she captures the sharp, energetic language of London teens and makes them come to life on the page. Her characters feel real, and we empathise with them through hostile family life, painful memories, and the awkwardness of a new crush, the narrative moving around London effortlessly as we are carried along by its young protagonists. For those who’ve read the book and will know what I’m referring to, Covent Garden had me whooping with joy.
Cultural inclusivity in literature is a topical issue, with the lack of people of colour in children’s books still a problem in the UK. However, Lawrence’s novel is un-selfconsciously diverse. Her characters range from different cultural backgrounds; black and mixed-race families are not singular occurrences but the norm, and her main protagonists are mixed-race. In Indigo Donut people of colour do not exist on the fringe or as plot devices, where their ethnicity is the defining feature about them, or a quest for racial identity is what drives the novel. Rather they are fully realised, vivid characters whose ethnicity is beside the point; they are primarily dealing with love and loss, mean girls and first dates, abandonment and belonging.
The diverse representation of people of colour in young adult fiction has rewarding effects on its readers; children with diverse heritage can feel they are represented in the stories they read, to feel that they too can exist in a literary landscape. Equally, readers who encounter characters different from themselves can realise that they actually share similarities, and be encouraged to imagine diverse characters beyond stereotype.
Patrice Lawrence strikes a fine balance between mystery and teenage mischief. There’s never a dull moment in Indigo Donut, as the plot thickens concerning the dubious stranger lurking around Bailey’s home. With the Waterstones Prize for Young Adult Fiction already under her belt for Orangeboy, who’s to say Indigo Donut won’t win it again next year?