Paperback choice

19th June 1998 at 01:00
THE BROKEN BRIDGE. By Philip Pullman. Macmillan pound;3.99.

OTHER COLOURS. By Catherine Johnson. Livewire pound;4.99. PLAYING IT COOL. By Jacqueline Roy. Puffin pound;4.99.

All these books are about black teenage girls discovering how they fit into the world. The first two are partly set in Wales, and are about painting. Philip Pullman, writing here in the third person, weaves a dense fabric: an exploration of family ties with a mystery at its heart.

I loved the visual detail in Catherine Johnson's book. Stories written in the continuous present are often irritating, but Johnson's heroine has a brave and endearing voice, and a way of picturing what happens to her with honesty and lyricism. It made me wish I could be an art student.

Jacqueline Roy's heroine is younger, and her novel is an unusual treatment of bullying in that the bully tells the story. Characters are well-drawn, and we see how easy it is to fall into tormenting someone out of sheer embarrassment and the desire to be cool.

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