Secret Gardens  

by David Belbin Published by Five Leaves Publications

Review by Julia Pirie

David Belbin is an experienced novelist who started writing for young adults in the early nineties. His latest title Secret Gardens follows a line of successful publications for ‘reluctant readers’ – books which deal with YA content, accessible for those who do not have the English language skills expected of their peers.
Secret Gardens has a reading age of about 7-8 but the story of its narrator, 15-year-old Aazim, an asylum-seeker, is aimed at audiences of 13+.
Our hero is left to fend for himself after his family is taken away by Immigration. He meets Nadimah from the Ivory Coast who has been sold into slavery by a family friend. Together they go on the run, looking for work and somewhere safe to live.
Belbin tells a spare but powerful story. His all-too realistic scenario of ordinary people caught in global power struggles and children as victims of adults is set against the more lyrical background of ‘secret gardens’ – the allotments, gardens and farms of the Midlands.
A range of minor characters representing both the good and the bad in multi-cultural Britain is economically and convincingly drawn.
There is a hopeful if not happy ending and the book raises more questions than it answers which you could use in mainstream drama or PHSE lessons.