Childhood relationships are tenuous, fragile things–you can so easily go from best friends to mortal enemies, and vice versa. In The Tightrope Walkers, a bildungsroman by David Almond, the relationships between friends is explored while the narrator grows into a young man.
Set in northern England, Dominic Hall has conflicting relationships with a boy and a girl in his neighborhood. With the older Vincent McAlinden, there is a brutish element to the relationship that easily crosses the line into bullying territory. With the artistically inclined Holly Stroud, Dominic dares to improve his writing skill and dream of fanciful things, including a life different from his father’s. Coming to a balance between the opposing forces in his life, Dominic grows from boyhood into manhood while trying to keep himself part of both friends’ worlds.
The text is filled with nice language and description, one such element being the depiction of the northern dialect to provide a more realistic image of the characters to complement the grittiness of the story’s events. The narrative is paced rather rapidly due to the somewhat brief chapters, which keeps readers moving forward to see how Dominic evolves. Maintaining a sense of wonder and aspiration are two of the larger takeaways that seem to come from the story as both Holly and Vincent encourage Dominic to be better and dream larger. There were some clues provided in the text to place the story in time, yet it seems as if it is a timeless sort of story about life, growing up, and finding yourself and place in the world.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.