"This compassionate, authentic YA winner sees a 16-year-old grapple with monumental challenges during her coming-of-age journey from West Wales to London"
October 2023 YA Book of the Month
Thought-provoking, gripping, and shot-through with the warmth of a Welsh cwtch (that’s a hug with the clout to make pretty much anything feel better), Natasha Devon’s Babushka is YA fiction at its finest. Prequel to Toxic, though it’s satisfying as a perfectly-formed novel in its own right, this had me reading long after the lights should have gone out, and that’s no word of a lie.
Following a young woman’s rocky road to selfhood, Babushka explores first love, first sex and family bonds with remarkable wit. Add to that the compassion and empathy with which it tackles toxic masculinity, toxic female friendship, teenage pregnancy, and complex mother-daughter bonds, and this amounts to an outstanding triumph.
The set-up of 16-year-old Cerys leaving her rural Carmarthenshire hometown to go to art college in London is deftly done. Her Welsh community and family couldn’t be more authentically conjured, and neither could Cerys’ giddy fear, excitement, and thrill at staying with awesome Auntie Wyn (“I read books, I smoke cigarettes, I know things”).
At college, Cerys is made to feel like a tiny fish in huge, hostile ocean. Her accent and clothes are mocked. She’s instantly cast as a dumb, childish outsider by her snobby, rich Chelsea peers. Then everything changes in the wake of being invited to a party by said snobby, rich Chelsea peers.
Rarely has young adulthood been so brilliantly portrayed — the dreams, dashed hopes, and almost-unbearable decisions. And that cwtch moment when it feels like everything might just work out OK.