***Although I am a fan of contemporary novels and recently read another novel set in the UK with a male protagonist (review here), Being Billy still managed to take me by surprise. I was expecting it to be confronting and gritty, it seems to be something the Brit’s excel at, but I was not expecting it to make me so angry or have a protagonist I didn’t particularly like. I know that sounds harsh, but in my opinion, Billy wasn’t meant to be instantly likeable or endearing. No, he was angry and he showed it and that’s always confronting to read. I felt deeply sorry for Billy and I could never begin to imagine what it must have been like to have been through what he had. However, he also made me angry when it came to his relationship with his main carer Ronnie. I could see Ronnie was trying to help and Billy’s constant anger toward him annoyed me, but ultimately I could understand why he found it so hard to trust anyone. In saying that, I did eventually come to care deeply for Billy. He was so incredibly loving towards his brother and sister, and so brave and mature when it came to realising he had to let them go. By the end of the novel, I was cheering him on, hoping he could make everything right. In terms of the pacing of this novel, it was spot on. It was relatively fast-paced and very compelling, yet portrayed the more ‘mundane’ aspects of life in the home and at school. And those last few chapters…WOW. I’m still trying to get my head around it all. I was torn between desperately hoping for a magical happy ending and knowing that I wouldn’t be happy unless the conclusion was realistic, however heartbreaking. Well, Earle certainly delivered a realistic ending, but there was a dash of hope in there. Being Billy was a wonderful read and one that really did take me by surprise. It was raw, heartbreaking, confronting…everything I’ve come to expect from those marvellous British writers. Although I didn’t instantly take to Billy, he won me over in the end and made this a book I won’t forget in a hurry. P.S. My favourite childhood author Jacqueline Wilson described this as stark but sensitive and said she was moved to tears. I didn’t need much more persuasion to read it.