Deep down, we all suspected that there’d be a teenage version of Babyfather one of these days. Thank goodness Malorie Blackman got there first. You can sort of work out the storyline from the premise (Dante’s waiting for his A-Level results and gets a baby daughter dumped on him) but what’s good about that is that you can see all the potential pitfalls coming and admire the author for resisting the obvious.
And sometimes, resisting the plausible. Anyone who’s seen what a baby does to someone’s life will be thinking ‘hang on, what about…?’ at some of the curious omissions. There’s nothing about making the house baby-safe, apart from one incident whenre she’s about to fall downstairs. Dante’s dad would remember all of that from last time and embark on a massive DIY binge. Anyone with any experience of how A-Level results are delivered will wonder why he’s waiting for the postman rather than going to his sixth-form to pick them up.
What’s impressive is that the author seems to have a pretty good idea of how an all-male household works. Dante’s mum died a few years back so it’s him, his dad and his brother. There’s an equally predictable sub-plot going on there which feeds in to the main one. It works as a novel, with this contrapuntal narrative and alternating narrators, but there are things along the way that act as information-dispensing cues (and the back of the book has those if you have been affected by these issues addresses and websites). It’s a work of fiction, designed to entertain. Only the baby and the brother ever get described, so that anyone reading can see themselves in one or more characters (it’s scrupilously non-race-specific, unlike the trailer – yes, books get trailers now) and the U-certificate not-quite-swearing hints at what the people involved would really have said in the circumstances.
By Tat Wood