The last Sean-Paul Thomas book I read was The Comedian novella, so I am familiar enough with the writing style and what to expect. Sarah Smiles has a teenage cast, set in a high school in Cyprus. It is not about love, but more about friendship and being a teenager to boot. We know that once children go to school, they rely on peers for social function. It can be hard if you are constantly moving places, that means you have to restart a lot of friendships and reestablish relationships.
For 14- year old Liam, moving with his family is a normal thing in his life. He’s dad is in the army, so they move around every few years. He has gotten used to not having friends that lasts over three or four years. So not really surprising if he’s an introvert in the story, right?
Liam’s dad is in the British Army, and the family has been transferred to Cyprus. Liam Francis is one of the military kids in the class, soon he meets with other army kids. He’s the only child, and Sarah Smiles is in his point of view. Liam is a good kid, the hero of the story, having to navigate teenage awkwardness to making new friends.
With the title of the book, there is definitely a Sarah in the book. She is the reason he gets into trouble. Sarah is an enigma, a good older sister to a younger brother. Liam tries to stay away, but he seems to be drawn to the girl who never smiles.
Michael is the bully of the school, he is big and it seems like he’s always picking on everyone. No other kids dare to antagonize him, mainly because of his fists. A villain in Liam’s eyes, because Michael loves to pick on him.
Sarah Smiles is about a lot of things, the struggles to be in a new environment, to putting your nose into places it should not belong. Part of the fun is Liam’s penchant to get into trouble, yet he takes risks anyway. He is not a bad person, more likely a child who has a good influence. The main message is that parents can affect their children’s psychology. Children ultimately mirror what their parents show them, and so the story is like a reminder to always be kind to people.
I have read a few of Sean- Paul Thomas’ books, and this is one of the few that does not set in Carlton Hill. I do wish that he had more of the Cyprus background, but the book is about the people and not the hot summer’s heat. The book is lighter in read, compared to My Sister and I, plus it has a lot of things for me to think about. As a parent, I will pick Sarah Smiles for my children, but keep the rest for myself.
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